A Terrible Country

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In the summer of 2008, Andrei Kaplan moves from New York to Moscow to look after his ageing grandmother, a woman who survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia’s violent capitalist transformation. She welcomes Andrei into her home, even if she can’t always remember who he is. Andrei learns to navigate Putin’s Moscow, still the city of his birth, but with more expensive coffee. He looks after his elderly – but surprisingly sharp! – grandmother, finds a place to play hockey, a café to send emails, and eventually some friends, including a beautiful young activist named Yulia. Capturing with a miniaturist’s brush the unfolding demands of family, fortune, personal ambition, ideology, and desire, A Terrible Country is a compelling novel about ageing, radical politics, Russia at a crossroads, and the difficulty – or impossibility – of actually changing one’s life. 

‘Gessen’s particular gift is his ability to effortlessly and charmingly engage with big ideas – power, responsibility, despotism of various stripes, the question of what a country is supposed to do for the people who live in it – while still managing to tell a moving and entertaining human story. At a time when people are wondering whether art can rise to the current confusing political moment, this novel is a reassurance, from a wonderful and important writer.’
— George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo