I was never really a big fan of Gary Shteyngart… but he did catch my attention a few times in The New Yorker, mainly because of the odd combination of his last name and his rather confidently elaborated insights into the Korean culture and people in his writings. I tried to dig into his past to see if he has had any connection to Korea… but mission failed; if anybody knows, please enlighten me. Perhaps he’s dated a lot of Korean women?
As the title clearly suggests, the book really is a super sad love story. A story about a kind of love that tries to survive a modern warfare… The book is about a romantic relationship of Lenny, a Russian immigrant in his 40s, and Eunice, a Korean second gen immigrant in her twenties, living in New York and struggling to overcome the challenges that tries to keep them happy together. The plot takes place in the nearby future where China is battling with the rest of the world to gain superpower status. In sync with our current digital era, Shteyngart alternates the narrative between Lenny’s diary and the archives of online chat conversations among the characters. Eunice, Lenny, and a majority of the characters throughout the novel are seen constantly interacting with an “apparatus”, which I think it’s a phone of some sort. It keeps the book interesting; the personalized narration made me feel like I was spying on the characters. It’s human nature to always crack our curiosity in half. It plays well with our minds – the psychological implication behind the narrations.
Anyway, the thing that bothered me throughout the entire book was how Eunice’s Korean mother was writing mails to her in “broken English”. But the broken English sounded as if it were coming from a Chinese native than a Korean. I know this because Koreans distinctively have certain articles they incorrectly but persistently use or never use at all. Not a big deal but it was felt like a tiny little eyelash stuck inside my eye. Overall, I’m not sure how I feel about the book. It satirically depicts our society and the tragedy of the commons; it’s descriptive, intriguing, and quite depressing. Definitely not a happy go lucky kind of story. So I’m not sure if it’s something I’d like to revisit. But if you’re up for a prolonged hyperbole of how we might meet our tragic ends in the near future… why not?
dee’s recommendation: 3/5