The immigrant experience is fast becoming its own genre, carried by the energy of people who are grappling with the present rather than looking to the past. However, in this accomplished short story collection, Sana Krasikov suspends her characters somewhere between these two states. Nannying, waitressing, attending to America's senior citizens, Krasikov's émigrés adopt the pragmatic approach needed to survive, while remaining anchored to Uzbekistan, Russia or Ukraine by phone calls and visits.
In "Maia in Yonkers", Maia remembers her husband, murdered in Astrakhan. She feels her life with him isn't over, but is rather "still playing underneath her present life, like a song turned down to a low volume while people talk."
Krasikov shows how the economic decision to emigrate exacts an emotional toll – separation, dislocation, boredom, compromise. "How many ways a person can be lonely," reflects one character on her trip back to Moscow. While Gulia in "Asal" recoils from the overtures of an unattractive man in Manhattan, she's also aware his interest seems "too precious, too unfamiliar to risk losing". Anya in "Better Half" – drained by hours serving in a diner – continues to see her violent American husband despite the restraining order against him.
Love is what everyone wants. But in this world of illegal status, false passports and marrying strangers to get residency, everything reduces to the level of a transaction. In "Companion", Ilona shares the flat of an elderly man to whom she is nurse-cum-girlfriend – but only because she can't afford somewhere of her own. When Maia's graceless teenage son visits, he's unresponsive unless she buys him things he can't get in Tiblisi.
Resignation seeps from these stories. Yet if the overall effect is subdued, Krasikov offers luminous insights and observations. A woman's hand lying on a table captures her awkwardness. It "resembles a sea creature fastening itself to the floor of the ocean, making itself invisible until a danger passes."Reuse content