Title: A Replacement Life
Author: Boris Fishman
Date of Publication: June 3, 2014
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing this review copy! "A Replacement Life" will be on tour for the next couple of weeks; check it out here.
Two Sentence Summary: Slava wants nothing more than to be a respected writer; he toils at Century magazine (New York) to earn crumbs of recognition, and as a result has distanced himself from his boisterous immigrant family. When Slava's grandmother dies, her funeral brings the family back together and Slava finds his way into a new type of writing project, one that will ultimately change his relationship to his family, to his country, and to his past.
Things I Think: Fishman's novel reminds me of the first time I read "A Clockwork Orange." (This may be an apparently random comparison, but bear with me.) At first introduction, entry into the protagonist's world seems challenging from a readerly standpoint. But after being ensconced (for a chapter or two) in the vocabulary, the names, the rites and quirks that make up this fictional account, passage through the rest of the tale is seamless and enjoyable.
Though I've been unable to finish the last few chapters (my digital version of the Advance Reader's Copy expired! Ah!), I'm completely enamored with the family at the center of this novel. The characters that revolve around Slava (and his "special writing project") are so colorful, so pronounced, that it's difficult to believe they are fictitious. Slava, too, is endearingly complex, and the trajectory of his belief system makes the book both gripping and personal.
This is not a quick and easy novel, so don't plan to gobble it up on your weekend off. It's humorous, but dark, and the language is beautiful but densely packed. The read is fully worth the time investment.