Independence Day may have come and gone, but there’s still time for favorite summer traditions, one of which is the beach read. Although lighter fare is usually the preferred summer reading, for those seeking something more thought provoking, I can recommend a superb novel I recently finished.
Sana Krasikov’s The Patriots takes place in two time periods: interwar Soviet Russia and post-Soviet Russia. The story focuses on an idealistic American Jewish woman who emigrates to the Soviet Union in the 1930s. It’s a beautifully written story of family and ideology that explores the shifting quagmire of both communist and capitalist Russia. The epic lyric from the Eagles’ “Hotel California” comes to mind: “You can check out any time you’d like but you can never leave.”
Two things really stood out for me. First, I really like being bourgeois. To not be bourgeois in early Soviet Russia and indeed in Mandatory Palestine meant accepting a life of discomfort and hardship, with no real respite or promise of a better future. Certainly the authorities promised one, but as The Patriots tragically portrays, it was never to arrive.
Second, during WW II, Soviet Jews were aware of what was happening to their brethren under Nazi rule. They were deeply engaged in writing and disseminating state-sponsored Yiddish-language journals that exposed Nazi Germany. Again, Krasikov explores the tragic trajectory of so many under communist rule: when the war ended, and Stalin was taken by a new wave of paranoia, these anti-fascist Jews were twisted into enemies of the state.
The Patriots is not light, but the storytelling will keep you turning the pages, even while you’re basking in summer’s sun.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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