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21 November 2018

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Separate Kingdoms

Who of us living through the 1980s foresaw the changes on the horizon? That in 2011 Russia and the U.S. would lock horns not over nuclear launch vehicles but over the rules for transnational adoption? Valerie Laken (herself a student of Russian and one who lived and worked in Russia in the 1990s, after having grown up in Rockford, IL , sensing very palpably the global nuclear threat), in her powerful story collection Separate Kingdoms, evokes this brave new world and all the unexpected effects it has had on Russians, on foreigners trying to live in Russia, on Americans trying to live as Americans. Not all the stories in this collection have a Russian tinge, but enough do to make this a noteworthy aspect that should give ample reason for Russophiles to take an interest in Laken’s moving stories.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Sep/Oct 2011