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The Los Angeles Times said of Ludmila Ulitskaya's The Funeral Party, “In America we have friends, family, lovers, and parents—four kinds of love. Could it really be that in Russia they have more? Ulitskaya makes it seem so.” In Sonechka\, Ludmila Ulitskaya brings us tales of these other loves in her richly lyrical prose, populated with captivating and unusual characters.
In “Queen of Spades,” Anna, a successful ophthalmologic surgeon in her 60's, her daughter Katya, and teenage daughter and young son live in constant terror of Anna's mother, a domineering, autocratic, aging former beauty whose hold on the family is upset by the return of Anna's long-disappeared husband. There is Lidia, who having carefully created an air of genteel poverty, of lost aristocratic glory, in order to help her catch a foreign businessman and a ticket out of Russia finds that the success of her plan has unforeseen consequences. Nina, who has lost her mother and husband in one year, is tormented by a violent tomcat, and torn between the advice of her two friends, one fervently recommending prayer in the Russian Orthodox tradition, one counseling a New-Age mysticism cure.
In “Angel,” a closeted middle-aged professor marries an uneducated charwoman for the love of her young son, educating the child in his image. In "The Orlov-Sokolovs," perfectly matched young lovers are pulled apart by the Soviet academic bureaucracy. The three “Dauntless Women of the Russian Steppe” have different views on men and their flaws, but are fiercely devoted to each other. And Sonechka herself, a bookworm turned muse turned mother, reveals a love and loyalty at once astounding in its generosity and grotesque in its pathos.
In all of these, love and life are lived under the radar of oppression, in want of material comfort, in obeisance to or matter-of-fact rejection of the pervasive restrictions of Soviet rule. If living well is the best revenge, then Ludmila Ulitskaya's characters, in choosing to embrace the unique gifts that their lives bring them, are small heroes of the everyday.
“From on the most important living Russian writers comes a collection of storytelling miracles. The Russian women in Ludmila Ulitskaya’s stories are unlike any you have met before. They are charming, intelligent, seductive, and strong enough to carry an entire dysfunction country on their backs” —Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook