In a crumbling apartment building in post-Soviet Russia, there’s a ghost who won’t keep quiet. Mircha fell from the roof and was never properly buried, so he sticks around to heckle the living: his wife, Azade; Olga, a disillusioned translator/censor for a military newspaper; Yuri, an army veteran who always wears an aviator’s helmet; and Tanya. Tanya carries a notebook wherever she goes, recording her observations and her dreams of finding love and escaping her job at the All-Russia All-Cosmopolitan Museum, a place which holds a fantastic and terrible collection of art knockoffs created using the tools at hand, from foam to chewing gum, Popsicle sticks to tomato juice. When the museum’s director hears of a mysterious American group seeking to fund art in Russia, it looks like she might get her chance at a better life, if she can only convince them of the collection’s worth. Enlisting the help of Azade, Olga and even Mircha, Tanya scrambles to save her dreams and her neighbors, and along the way discovers that love may have been waiting in her own courtyard all along.
And so in Ochsner's fable-like, magical debut, we see the transcendence of imagination. As Colum McCann has said: "[Ochsner] manages... to capture our sundry human moments and make raw and unforgettable music of them."
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
GINA OCHSNER is the author of two collections of short stories, People I Wanted to Be and The Necessary Grace to Fall, both of which won the Oregon Book Award, and a novel, The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight, which was long-listed for the Orange Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is a recipient of the Flannery O’Connor Award, the William Faulkner Prize, an NEA grant, a Guggenheim, and the Raymond Carver Prize. She lives in Oregon.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Gina Ochsner is a brilliant author. Bless yourself by discovering her for yourself.
Synopsis: Within a current day setting in Russia, with all its difficult economics and "shell shocked" population, a number of diverse individuals relay their lives via an omnipresent narrator in separate yet interrelated chapters. They all live in the same dilapidated building where the plumbing has been non existent for several months. They are coping, but it seems there is nothing they can do about the situation. Most significantly the group experiences a death of one of their fellow residents via suicide. Because the "dead guy" is not buried properly in contravention of the demands of his Muslim tradition, he haunts the others with hilarious, heart wrenching, and smelly results. Layered within this story are the difficult and sadly comical experiences of each of the individuals. Each leading lives with a shared, conflicted yet accepting, desperation. All with differing perspectives due to varying ethnicity, age, and gender. Each are both thoughtful and dark. As the characters are developed, the story starts to revolve around several American museum facilitators of "Russian Extraction" who will visit and determine if they are to help the Russian group and their local "handmade" museum. It is a promise of a monetary donation, but as the residents try to meet the Americans' exacting standards and try and plan out a reasonable way of showing the donators that their museum is worthy of support, that they lead normal and sane lives, havoc ensues. My Thoughts: The above description of this book unjustly simplifies it, since there is so much more complexity within the book than can be described within three paragraphs. There were so may wonderful examples of complex and unusual word usage. I found myself laughing and amazed. The most fun aspect of the book is the way that the author seamlessly incorporates folktales, knowledge and tradition from each of the respective religious backgrounds. "Magical realism" melded with the reality of life - heartbreaking yet hopeful. The book is a linguistic mix of metaphor and imagery. I give this story 4.5 stars!
I found everything about this book to be captivating. The cover caught my attention. The artwork is wonderful and perfect for the story. I lived and traveled in and out of Moscow for 3 years and observed the life around me, without fully understanding it and the culture. Gina Ochsner is a wonderful writer and drew me into the story. I gained so much insight into the life I had witnessed and wondered if Ochsner herself had lived in or visited Russia. I could not put the book down and will read it a second time. I am looking forward to reading more of Oshsner's work. She brings the characters to life, giving them each a distinct personality and role. I felt like I had seen all of them in Russia. The highly educated masses barely making a living, the glue sniffing orphan's on the street, the communal living arrangement, and the restless ghosts that still haunted the living. I could even see the wealthy American philanthropist, who came to Russia with a preconceived concept of Russia, only to find a situation she could not comprehend. If you have any interest in Russia at all, then I highly recommend this book, and if you don't, it it still an excellent piece of writing.
The Russian Dreambook takes place in post-Soviet Perm, Russia. The story is centered around one dilapidated apartment building and the poverty-stricken people living inside of it. These characters' interactions with each other is largely what the novel is about, with very long introspective passages from most of the characters about their dreams, burdens, and lives. This novel plays with magical realism and does it in, I would say, a successful way. It's interwoven with reality in such a tangible way that it is almost believable. A ghost comes back to drink vodka and mock those he mocked while he was living? Why not! Each character has their own inner demons, weaknesses, and broken dreams. At the end of the story, none of that has changed. Their lives are mostly the same (except they ran off all the evil characters, Mircha, Vitek, and Zoya) and are more comfortable with themselves and each other. I must admit that it took genuine effort to get through this novel. While it was interesting and the language beautifully and creatively written, it's just a tough book to get through. Most of it is written in long, introspective chapters without much action. I also found the "bad" characters to be extremely flat and underdeveloped which caused them to play simple villian roles, which stood out in a book as complex as this one. For more of this review, and others, go to: laurareviewsbooks.blogspot.com