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"The outward, visible world is miserable, I’ll give you that,”?Olga said. “But there is an ocean of buoyancy in the unseen places of the human heart."
This duality, voiced by one of Ochsner’s vividly drawn characters, stands at the center of this wonderful novel. The gritty, mean banality of everyday life in post-Soviet Russia (Perm, to be more exact) looms large, and one wants to retch at the public latrine, the sour living conditions, the cruel yard bullies, the unburied dead. Yet, in counterpoint there are slowly gathering lights, the illuminations that are ethereal dreams and bottomless human souls. Against these, the latrine and the bullies don’t stand a chance.
A woman dreams of flying and of love, while the tortured war veteran she longs for merely wants to fish. Another longs for meaning and affection, only to find both have been staring her in the face for years. There is a itinerant corpse offering sage advice, and there is a troika of ridiculous Americans.
Bouncing between farce, fable and fantasy, this is an entertaining read filled with rich characters and beautiful prose –?a transformational tale.
Reviewed in Russian Life: July/Aug 2009