Our Country Friends
By Gary Shteyngart
What’s it about?
In the spring of 2020 a group of old friends gather at a rural compound in upstate New York to wait out the new pandemic that has hit the country. Sasha, Karen, and Vinod went to high school together and bonded over their shared immigrant experiences. Almost thirty years later they gather together again (with new friends and old history) to make their way through another chapter in their lives. As always they rely on each other, hurt each other, and love each other.
What did it make me think about?
Love- in all it’s various forms.
Should I read it?
Yes, you should read this- but not everyone is going to enjoy it… This thoroughly Russian novel cleverly uses the time of the pandemic to shine a light on our ever-changing America, love, friendship,and what a shared history can mean to people. How insightful to take a time where we were all cooped up together, and on unsure footing, to explore these themes. Gary Shteyngart is an immensely talented writer but I often admired this book more than I loved this book. By the end of the novel I was surprised to find that I was going to miss these characters- so I may have loved this book more than I realized. If I could just discuss this novel with someone there is a very good chance it will be one of my favorites this year. In the meantime, I will keep ruminating over Sasha, Masha, Nat, Karen, Vinod, Ed, Dee, and The Actor- and isn’t that the mark of a good story?
“Alcohol is the gift of any narration, and any writer thrills to the thwop of a corkscrew being pulled. Now the protagonists will reveal themselves. Now there will be unchecked laughter and love. Now the principals will flirt and be cruelly rebuffed, and the loveless will sigh into their cups and try to remember what it was like to be wanted.”