A sweeping multigenerational novel about idealism, betrayal, and family secrets set in the U.S. and Russia, from one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists
When the Great Depression hits, Florence Fein leaves Brooklyn College for a job in Moscow—and the promise of love and independence. But once in Russia, she quickly becomes entangled in a country she can’t escape. Many years later, Florence’s son, Julian, immigrates back to the United States, though his work in the oil industry takes him on frequent visits to Moscow. When he learns that Florence’s KGB file has been opened, he arranges a business trip to uncover the truth about his mother, and to convince his son, Lenny—trying to make his fortune in Putin’s cutthroat Russia—to return home. What Julian discovers is both chilling and heartbreaking: an untold story of a generation of Americans abandoned by their country, and the secret history of two rival nations colluding under the cover of enmity.
The Patriots is a riveting evocation of the Cold War years, told with brilliant insight and extraordinary skill. Alternating between Florence’s and Julian’s perspectives, it is at once a mother-son story and a tale of two countries bound in a dialectic dance; a love story and a spy story; both a grand, old-fashioned epic and a contemporary novel of ideas. Through the history of one family moving back and forth between continents over three generations, The Patriots is a poignant tale of the power of love, the rewards and risks of friendship, and the secrets parents and children keep from one another.
Praise for The Patriots
“The Patriots is a historical romance in the old style: multigenerational, multi-narrative, intercontinental, laden with back stories and historical research, moving between scrupulous detail and sweeping panoramas, the first-person voice and a kaleidoscopic third, melodrama and satire, Cleveland in 1933 and Moscow in 2008.”—Nathaniel Rich, The New York Times Book Review
“Dazzling and addictive . . . an outstanding family saga.”—The Spectator (U.K.)
“Extraordinary . . . The Patriots has the weight of a classic."—Commentary Magazine
“I found on every page an observation so acute, a sentence of such truth and shining detail, that it demanded re-reading for the sheer pleasure of it. The Patriots has convinced me that Krasikov belongs among the totemic young writers of her era.”—Khaled Hosseini, author of And the Mountains Echoed and The Kite Runner
Three generations of a Russian-American Jewish family are caught in the turmoil of the Soviet Union and its aftermath in Krasikov's capacious, exhausting novel. In 1933, the headstrong young Brooklynite Florence Fein meets Soviet engineer Sergey Sokolov through her work at Amtorg, the unofficial Soviet trade mission in the U.S. After a summer affair, she follows Sergey back to the Old World, dreaming of a more equitable society; the reality she finds in the city of Magnitogorsk looks more like "appalling sanitation... endless hunger... bullying superiors." Journeying on to Moscow, she begins to make a new life with a new love a fellow expatriate lured by the Soviet promise of the future but that life is soon imperiled by Stalin's purges, as arrests, interrogations, and executions terrorize the population. By shifting frequently among narrators and time periods, Krasikov suggests that the perils of Russian life are perennial; in 2008, Florence's adult son, Julian, now living in the U.S. and working for an oil company, returns to Moscow and finds himself faced not only with pervasive corruption, but with the possibility that his own son, Lenny, may be endangered by the unsavory business deal he's been tasked to execute. Krasikov aims for a cubist take on the Soviet century, touching on orphanages, labor camps, universities, and the theater. The plot lags and the prose is awkward, but readers may discover some interesting details of the time and place through the extensive research Krasikov implements into the story.
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It is a gem. Perhaps one of the 5 best books I have ever read.