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One More Year: Stories    by Sana Krasikov order for
One More Year
by Sana Krasikov
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

The ability to write short stories with characters who come alive in just a few pages of prose shows a talent on the part of the short story writer that many novelists could study to their advantage. In One More Year, Sana Krasikov exhibits that talent in all eight stories. An immigrant from Ukraine, Krasikov has written about other American immigrants from Georgia and Russia, and although all of her main characters are women, the men with whom they are involved are also fully realized. With each story one is plunged into the immediate lives and problems of a small number of people who are struggling with who they are and where they belong.

These are serious stories whose characters are dealing with the unpleasant realities of modern life, complicated by the fact that they feel alienated in America while also not really being at home back in the country from which they came. The men come across badly, as philanderers who treat the women in their lives as playthings and lesser beings. The reader comes to understand that while American men aren't perfect, men in the old country can be downright vile.

Maia in Yonkers depicts a woman who leaves behind her only son as well as other relatives and friends to come to New York after her husband dies. She comes because it's the only way she can find a job that will earn enough money to support her nine-year-old son whom she leaves behind in the care of her sister. Her job is menial, working as a live-in aide to an old woman with dementia, but she can afford to send money home for the care of her son and buy him the toys that he wants. When he comes to visit for the first time a few years after she left, however, she meets a sullen teenager who believes the world owes him a living and his mother should provide it.

Most of the stories are about people who aren't well off, but the last two are about people who have more problems with their intimate relationships than with money. In The Repatriates, the main character, Lera, is a good wife to her successful husband, living happily in a nice house in Dobbs Ferry, making a beautiful garden behind the house and raising their daughter. When her husband becomes convinced that his American employers are taking advantage of him and that he can become much wealthier back in Russia, she follows him back only to discover that he has found another woman. The main character in There Will be no Fourth Rome has grown up in America and has a good job in accounting, but during a visit to Moscow, she discovers that her close friend has become involved with a married man who is mistreating her in ways that resemble her own missteps with a married man in New York.

This is a timely book. There is such an emotional upheaval in America now about illegal immigrants and how they're taking jobs away from Americans and ruining the lives of citizens. Few articles mention the menial jobs that these immigrants are happy to perform or the wrenching experience involved in leaving behind your own country and language and trying to make a living and fit into another culture thousands of miles away. The big question is whether there are Americans willing to perform these jobs.

The characters in these stories, who sometimes have professional degrees in their own country, work in other peoples' houses taking care of their elderly parents or their little children or in the kitchens or dining rooms of cafes, but they aren't kept down by their menial jobs. They do what they have to do to survive and then they look around and pull themselves up, taking classes if necessary, getting a green card one way or another, and merging into the melting pot that America still can be. Krasikov's writing is excellent, and I look forward to reading more of her stories in the future.

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