Friday, January 12, 2007

Natasha and Other Stories - David Bezmozgis

The Basics: Natasha and Other Stories, David Bezmozgis, 2004, 147 pages, hard cover.

How I found it: This is another Canada Reads book. This one is being defended by Steven Page (of the Barenaked Ladies).

What's it about?: This is a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories about the same family told in a sequential manner so that it resembles a fragmented novel. The family here is a Jewish Russian family that immigrates to Toronto. The stories are told by the family's only son, Mark and they trace his life from the time they arrive in Canada to his early adulthood. In this sense it is also a coming of age book.

Did I like it?: I am a sucker for stories about immigrant children. There is something that is just so quintessentially Canadian about them. Therefore I was bound to like this book for that reason alone. That is not the only reason to like it, however: it is exceptionally well written, it takes you inside the unique culture of Russian Jews, and it seems very genuine. As I read it I really began to believe that the characters were real and that this was a memoir, not a work of fiction.

Will you like it?: So far this is my favourite of the Canada Reads books (though I have yet to read two of them). Bezmozgis has been hailed as the next big thing by a lot of big literary magazines and I believe it. He is a great writer and I flew through this book in under 48 hours. His characters and his prose really sucked me in.

But don't take my word for it: A collection of editorial reviews from, a couple glowing reader reviews, a more critical review from Pop Matters, and one from Small Spiral Notebook (an alternative literary journal).

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