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The Free World by David Bezmozgis

Readers Recommend

Posted 1.18.12

“I read contemporary writers, and, since I'm writing nonfiction these days, I tend to read memoir. I also try to reread, pulling some Chekov, Flannery O'Connor or Virginia Woolf down from the shelf. My favorite book is usually the most recent book I've read, and the last book I read in 2011 was The Free World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011) by David Bezmozgis, a surprise choice by a member of our small Jewish book group. None of us except the person who chose the novel had heard of Bezmozgis. Set in the summer of 1978, the novel tells the story of the Krasnansky family, Soviet Jews who have landed in Italy on their way to new lives in the West. What I love about the book is that Bezmozgis has managed to tell a multigenerational story in a small space, Rome where the family spends six months waiting for their visas. Rome for this family is a no man’s land, a strange and dangerous place where they deal with ruthless hustlers, dislocation, and nostalgia. The characters are unforgettable: Samuil, the old communist father; his two sons, Karl, a smart opportunist, and Alec, a playboy; Polina, Alec's wife, who married him in spite of her doubts. So often we read stories of before and after. This story of transition showed me a world I hadn't known existed. Just wonderful.”

—Sandell Morse from York, Maine

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