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One More Year
By Karen Laws
If you could personify a separatist republic—say, Georgia, at the time the Soviet Union was dissolving—you might get one of the women who light up Sana Krasikov's first short-story collection, One More Year. Ilona, from "Companion," is typical: a woman in transition, rife with contradiction and internal tensions. Caught in the vise grip of time running out and the necessity to wait, she trades on her looks while relying on wit and fast reflexes. "He was a smart dog," Ilona says of her ex-husband. "He knew when to bark and when to lick." The description fits Ilona herself, but intelligence and compassion flicker even in the darkness of her worst moments.
Krasikov's wry observations read like proverbs, and she has an astounding ability to clarify complex emotions and morally ambiguous situations. In "Asal," rich, pampered Giula leaves Uzbekistan in despair after her husband's other wife becomes pregnant for the third time with his child. Paying one man to marry her so she can legally remain in the United States (Giula and her husband were married by a mullah and never went to the civil registry), she dates another man as respite from her job as a housecleaner and nanny. Meanwhile, her husband regularly phones from Tashkent; their conversations are three parts negotiation, one part tender romance. Only after a horrific act of violence does Giula take what feels like her first decisive step toward freedom.
In "The Repatriates," Lera, a devoted wife, is abandoned in Moscow when she accuses her husband of cheating. Back in New York, she conjures up dreadful fates for him; but her story concludes on a transcendent note: "Sometimes this hatred broke like a wave, unexplainably collapsing under its own weight, and, before it would begin to well up again, she suddenly felt nothing but the most pure-hearted compassion for him, a kindness and forgiveness that almost broke her heart." No wonder Krasikov, who was born in the Ukraine and grew up partly in the United States, published her first story in The New Yorker.
ONE MORE YEAR, by Sana Krasikov; Spiegel & Grau; 240 pages; $21.95 hardback
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