THE FUNERAL PARTY by Ludmila Ulitskaya

Books about Russian emigrés always seem to be a bit surreal, because, I think, of the nature of Russian people.

Official Description:   August 1991. In a sweltering New York City apartment, a group of Russian émigrés gathers round the deathbed of an artist named Alik, a charismatic character beloved by them all, especially the women who take turns nursing him as he fades from this world. Their reminiscences of the dying man and of their lives in Russia are punctuated by debates and squabbles: Whom did Alik love most? Should he be baptized before he dies, as his alcoholic wife, Nina, desperately wishes, or be reconciled to the faith of his birth by a rabbi who happens to be on hand? And what will be the meaning for them of the Yeltsin putsch, which is happening across the world in their long-lost Moscow but also right before their eyes on CNN?

As one reviewer put it, the book captures the divided soul of the emigrant, who lives eternally in a state of transition, never able to consolidate a singular identity. The characters are colorful, eccentric, and are the soul of the book.  There is no real plot, no real action, it is all about the characters.

Charming, and sad in its own way, it was a lovely read.

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