The Free World -- 60-second review

May 07, 2012|By Dave Rosenthal

My book club, which focuses on works with a Jewish theme, is reading "The Free World" by David Bezmozgis. It was one of the better novels we've read, though it conntinued a common theme of a rootless people looking for a safe haven.

In 1978, when a trickle of Jews were allowed to leave the Soviet Union, three generations of the Krasnansky family land in Italy, a way station to their new home. Each member of the family carries a particularly poignant bit of personal baggage, which weighs on their decision to seek a new life in the United States, Israel or Canada. 

You'll like this if: You enjoy a well-written character study, rather loosely plotted. The differing viewpoints of family members provide an interesting look at the emigration process -- a  resentment of the past combined with a fear of the future. Bezmozgis stretches his tale from the earliest days of the Soviet revolution to the modern-era West, offering a commentary on consumerism and personal freedom, as well.

You might not like: The use of Russian, Itailan and even Esperanto made the book feel more real, but I was annoyed at one key section that failed to provide a translation. The plaot also took a while to gel, but it was worth waiting for.

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