The Free World...Sure Costs Alot (Book #11)

I had to check David Besmozgis's The Free World out twice just to finish it (stinking two week limit and other responsibilities).  I just got it back this past Thursday and finally finished the last 200 pages or so and I have to say that I really enjoyed this book.

The novel centers around the Krasnansky family; three generations of Russian Jews.  Their goal throughout the entire book is to escape the Iron Curtain and make it to the West and the "Free" world.  The story is told from several different perspectives; mainly Samuil, the patriarch of the family, Karl, the straight-laced oldest son, Alec, the charismatic playboy and youngest son, and Polina, Alec's wife.  There are other members of the family who've made the journey:  Emma, Samuil's wife and Karl and Alec's mother, Rosa, Karl's wife, and Zhenya and Yury, Karl and Rosa's sons.  The journey they go on eventually lands them in Rome, Italy.  It is here that the majority of the story plays out and truths are discovered within the family.

Samuil becomes increasingly introverted and anti-social as the family's stay in Rome is continually increased and he takes to writing his memoir and wandering the streets of a town outside of Rome alone.  Karl gets a job working for a corrupt Italian auto mechanic and becomes more standoffish toward everyone in his family.  Alec continues his playboy ways and starts seeing another emigree, a much younger emigree, behind his wife's back.  Polina takes a job as a saleswoman at a leather shop and continues to write letters to her sister who is still in Riga, Latvia.  Emma, Rosa, and the boys become extremely involved in the local Jewish community and spend most of their time acting in plays and attending other activities.

As the novel progresses, and the time in Rome increases, all of the relationships within the family become more strained and hostile.  Truths are discovered about the true nature within and between the members of the family.  Some characters are forced into situations and actions that would normally not be part of their makeup.  Towards the culmination of the novel there are deals gone wrong, hospital visits, infidelity issues, and a funeral.  The story ends with a letter from World War 2 that told Samuil about his brother, Reuven's, death.  It's read by Alec and it's the only letter written in a language that he can read.

The novel definitely leaves the reader wondering if the family will ever make it to the "free" world, but there is the glimmer of hope that the funeral has given them that leads the reader to believe that it is only a matter of time before they are granted their visas and are able to leave Italy for good.  In the end I have to say that I really enjoyed this book.  Well done Bezmozgis!


  1. It's kind of awesome how you let us know about these books so I can look at what you've read and decide what sucks and what doesn't. That way I don't waste my time. Hellz to the yes Melissa you rock. :D


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