In this wryly amusing collection of interrelated first-person vignettes, the disarming self-revelations of a group of Russian emigres newly transplanted to Southern California are both witty and poignant. Karbo's cast of alternating narrators, all associated with the Slavic Studies department of a university, include a writer-in-exile still nursing old literary rivalries; a middle-aged teaching assistant desperately trying to turn herself into the all-American girl (and shed her lumpish husband); a Soviet actress attempting to navigate the uncertain waters of Hollywood auditions, callbacks and false promises; and a hapless KGB agent who wonders why her co-workers treat her with such suspicion and hostility (after all, as she points out, she works for those who send people to gulags, but doesn't do it herself). In her first book, the author, a winner of the 1988 General Electric Foundation Award for Younger Writers, has not yet found her voice; when in doubt, she reaches for humor in fractured English and heavy-handed cross-cultural juxtapositions. But the best stories create a flavorful portrait of an unusual expatriate society. (Apr.)
Karen Karbo is the author of several books, including How to Hepburn, which the Philadelphia Inquirer called “an exuberant celebration of a great original.” Her writings can also be found in Vogue, Elle, Esquire, and Redbook. She lives in Portland, Oregon.