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On Our Bookshelves:
Super Sad True Love Story

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NOVEL: Super Sad True Love Story

AUTHOR: Gary Shteyngart

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2010

REVIEW:

When I interviewed Eric Bennett about his novel A Big Enough Lie last year, we talked some about his influences, and he brought up Super Sad True Love Story as a dystopian novel that was fun to read.   I agreed that his novel had a similar bent…a slight exaggeration of all of our worst characteristics.

So, if you liked A Big Enough Lie, you might well like this one. Strangely enough, Super Sad True Love Story is a comic novel about the collapse of the United States. We’re not in a post-apocalyptic future, here, though: there’s been no plague, nuclear weaponry, or alien invasion to wipe us out.

So what happens, then?  Well, it’s the economy, stupid (or perhaps the stupid economy), the country’s assets being largely owned by the Chinese and the Norwegians, who are not the most patient of creditors. The government (ostensibly run by the Bipartisan Party) is a totalitarian nightmare. New York City has become a police state, with checkpoints at the bridges and tunnels. Consumerism runs rampant, as everyone carries around a device called an “äppärät,” which broadcasts credit scores (as well as one’s “hotness” quotient) and helpfully compares rankings. Fourth-ugliest man in the bar, anyone?

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Lenny Abramov, age 39, son of Russian immigrants, working for Post-Human Services (which promises immortality to its wealthy customers) has fallen in love with Eunice Park, age 24, daughter of Korean immigrants, possessor of useless college degrees in Images and Assertiveness. Both of them are largely oblivious to the increasingly alarming political situation, and both of them are emotionally immature, flawed people, but both of them are also fully realized human characters…suffering, as so many do, through the trials and tribulations of their time.

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Shteyngart’s extremely critical here, and also extremely funny, and also extremely sad. Read the novel.  You’ll find that the title, despite it being a work of fiction set in the near future, is absolutely on point.

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RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 1/2 Whistles

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HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon

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Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

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Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer

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Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

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One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson

Plotted: A Literary Atlas, Andrew DeGraff

Possession, A.S. Byatt

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Oliver Sacks

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah

The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

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What If?, Randall Munroe

Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

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Lead-In Image Courtesy of Random House Trade Paperbacks