A Terrible Country

A Terrible Country

A Novel

Book Club Kit - 2018
Average Rating:
Rate this:
When Andrei Kaplan's older brother Dima insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. His girlfriend has stopped returning his text messages. His dissertation adviser is dubious about his job prospects. It's the summer of 2008, and his bank account is running dangerously low. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs. So Andrei sublets his room in Brooklyn, packs up his hockey stuff, and moves into the apartment that Stalin himself had given his grandmother, a woman who has outlived her husband and most of her friends. She survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia's violent capitalist transformation, during which she lost her beloved dacha. 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 cafe to send emails, and eventually some friends, including a beautiful young activist named Yulia. Over the course of the year, his grandmother's health declines and his feelings of dislocation from both Russia and America deepen. Andrei knows he must reckon with his future and make choices that will determine his life and fate. When he becomes entangled with a group of leftists, Andrei's politics and his allegiances are tested, and he is forced to come to terms with the Russian society he was born into and the American one he has enjoyed since he was a kid. A wise, sensitive novel about Russia, exile, family, love, history and fate, A Terrible County asks what you owe the place you were born, and what it owes you.
Publisher: New York, New York :, Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC,, [2018]
Copyright Date: Ã2018
ISBN: 9780735221314
Branch Call Number: F GES NVD
Characteristics: 338 pages ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Dec 31, 2020

This is both a coming of age (albeit a bit late in life) and fish out of water story. The relationship between the protagonist and his grandmother is extremely well written and drives the heart of the novel. However, the star, in some ways, is Russian society as described by Gessen. It is a bit like holding up a cracked mirror to North American society. Recognizable but totally fractured. Terrible, yes, but for the most part, no more terrible that what we live here.

Dec 26, 2020

Excellent book. At times sad, but also funny and hard to put down. Captures what is to be an expatriate

Oct 05, 2019

The son of Russian immigrants to the US returns to Moscow to care for his wonderful, ageing grandmother and begins to become politically aware. A not bad read.

Jul 09, 2019

A well-written, enjoyable bildungsroman.

Jan 07, 2019

Surprisingly outstanding book. Takes a while to get into--young man returns to Russia to care for aging Grandma--he's alternately dedicated, selfish, pigheaded and self-absorbed but, in the setting he so vividly documents on a daily basis, his behavior is understood. In the middle, an Amer citizen, Russian-born with a brother who's deeply enmeshed in the corruption of current R. Politics on a daily basis and simplistic thinking on the part of those who want to rebel. Authority comes down hard. No easy ending.

Nov 01, 2018

Although the subject matter was interesting, I found the writing slow moving and wooden at times. Andrei has returned to Russia to take care of his grandmother at his older brother's insistence. Andrei and Dima immigrated to America in the 1980s when Dima was 16 and Andrei 8 which meant very different experiences for the two brothers. Dima returned to Moscow after the fall of the USSR and now finds himself in business trouble. Andrei is left caring for his grandmother while finding himself a stranger in his birthplace. When Andrei makes a few friends, he gets involved in a political movement that has drastic consequences at the end of his year in Moscow. As the novel makes clear, communism may have fallen but corruption is still alive and well in Russia.

Oct 22, 2018

A novel that's unsparing of either Russians, Americans, or its protagonist who is something in between. It depressed me at first, but lightened up just enough to keep me reading. The author shows a fine feeling for both the small details of Moscow life and the larger national landscape that shapes his characters' lives.

Sep 14, 2018

An intriguing story of family, friendship and personal growth, combined with a realistic portrait of contemporary Russian life, told with humor and pathos. Highly recommended.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at NVDPL

To Top