Super Sad True Love Story / Gary Shteyngart

Set in the near future, this novel envisions a dysfunctional America threatened by Chinese creditors and on the verge of economic collapse.  Books are completely out of fashion, with devices used to text-scan documents for content.  For the most part, young people are functionally illiterate, companies are so consolidated that the country’s airline is called UnitedContinentialDeltaAmerican, and the desperate poor are living in tent cities in New York City.  The story as it unfolds alternates between the diaries of Lenny Abramov, the thirty-nine-year-old son of Russian immigrants, and the “GlobalTeens” text entries of Eunice Park, his twenty-four-year-old Korean American girlfriend.  While the subject is indeed a dark one, the liberal use of humor, satire, and heartfelt compassion soften the frightening scenario of American’s final days as an independent country.  Lenny is a hapless soul but a caring individual who is always trying to do the right thing.  Eunice is a beautiful young woman, and unlike her boyfriend, very much a child of her time.  They are a mismatched couple but their relationship, while rocky, is a loving one.  Shteyngart is a brilliant satirist and his prose is a delight to read.  While set in the future, it contains more than enough unsettling reality to ring true throughout.  The same can be said of the book’s love story. This novel is a rich concoction–-wildly funny, darkly prophetic, humane, and all of it delivered with an emotional wallop.  It’s opening sentence, “Today I’ve made a major decision: I’m never going to die,” had me hooked from the start.

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