The Cosmopolitansby Nadia Kalman
Fiction. Jewish Studies. Equal parts Jane Austen and Gogol, THE COSMOPOLITANS casts a sharp and sympathetic eye on the foibles and rewards of family and life in America. This warm and exuberantly comic debut tells the story of the Molochniks, Russian-Jewish immigrants in suburban Connecticut. Daughters wed, houses flood, cultures clash, and the past has a way of
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Cosmopolitans based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
This is a surprisingly hilarious book. Sometimes novels claim to be funny, but aren't really, or they're just funny once in a while. This book is funny on every page, and two lines in particular nearly made me spit out the tea I was drinking. What's most impressive about the humor in the book is that it's never at the expense of the characters, who the author reveals as whole people, struggling to love and understand one another despite cultural and generational differences. By the time I was finished, I felt like I knew the Molochniks, and found myself wondering what Stalina would say about something I heard on the radio. I loved Stalina and Osip, and the way their daughters' romantic relationships evolved (and devolved) alongside one another. How Kalman achieved such depth while writing in short, entertaining chapters, I don't know. But I'm impressed. The most original book I've read in a long time, if not ever.
I was just re-reading parts of The Cosmopolitans. What really struck me is that while I remember the book being funny, to the point where I laughed out loud a lot (and laughed until I cried more than once), the truth is that just about every single individual sentence in the entire novel is funny all by itself. Which is an amazing feat. And I don't mean funny as in trying really hard or being full of jokes--the writing just has an effortlessly insightful and sharply observant quality that makes for good humor. I'll leave it to other folks to summarize the plot and structure and themes. For me, th book served as a very delightful, entertaining and thoughtful catalogue of human frailties: the thousand and one ways that clever and well-intentioned people make themselves ridiculous. In almost every scene, these characters are making goofy efforts to prop themselves up and fit into the world, and they never quite succeed. But the book never degenerates into snarkiness. Kalman's portrayals are sympathetic and tender. And while none of these characters do anything grand or heroic, in the end you sort of end up admiring them for their persistence and determination. I loved this book, it is mucho recommended.