The Patriots

Written by Sana Krasikov
Review by Ann Chamberlin

Florence Fein leaves Brooklyn during the Depression for promises of love and a future in accord with her communist idealism in the Soviet Union, a place her parents escaped. Abandoned by the country of her birth, she soon finds herself entrenched in the horrors of the Stalinism she cannot escape.

This is the best book I’ve read in years: beautifully written, evocative, smart, and challenging. The author and publisher are to be congratulated. We’ve all read enough black-and-white gulag tales that leave us numb, judgmental, and holier-than-thou. Exquisite, full, and imperfect characters here created revive the most terminal numbness.

Perhaps the most compelling part is how Florence’s trials (including a show trial, all the more terrifying because of the seemingly brief and distant way it is expounded) are spun down through the lives of the son she had to abandon to be raised in state orphanages when she was sent to Siberia, and then to her grandson. These men are embroiled in modern globalization with a Russian mafia bent that can force its citizens into betrayals and moral contortions with no good options, similar to those of the worst denounce-your-neighbor-before-he-denounces-you communism. Nothing could be of more immediate purport in a world where patriotism of a hateful sort has invaded the very centers of U.S. power.

Krasikov even finds brilliant immediate and telling ways to show us that patriotism to a corporate military-industrial America is no panacea in a Cold War of invasions and forced spread of democracy as ideology.

Not only do I recommend this, I beg you to read The Patriots.