Red Weather

Pauls Toutonghi, Author . Crown/Shaye Areheart $23 (245p) ISBN 978-0-307-33675-0

Toutonghi's tragicomic debut novel paints a loving, cockeyed picture of the Soviet immigrant experience in the twilight of the Cold War. Yuri Balodis, a painfully thin, bookish 15-year-old living in Milwaukee with his parents, narrates with adolescent angst tempered by retrospective wisdom. Proud to have escaped Soviet Latvia under trying circumstances, Yuri's mother and father (who works as a janitor) have embraced America, choosing to speak only their own idiosyncratic brand of English and decorating their small apartment with glossy magazine ads. In 1989, Yuri watches the fall of the Berlin Wall on television, plays host to Latvian relatives who may or may not be seeking asylum, and dabbles in socialism, an interest derived mostly from his passion for wild-haired Hannah Graham, a Socialist Worker vendor. Yuri's patriotic parents, particularly his hard-drinking father, Rudolfi, are outraged by Yuri's espousal of Marxist rhetoric, a blatant form of teenage rebellion. Oblivious to everything except his own obsession with Hannah, Yuri fails to recognize his father's love, and the implications of his own recklessness, until it's almost too late. Toutonghi's carefully observed character details, evocation of working-class Milwaukee and tales of the old country effectively walk the line between realism and absurdity. (May)

Reviewed on: 01/09/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4178-2353-6
Open Ebook - 211 pages - 978-0-307-38155-2
Paperback - 258 pages - 978-0-307-33676-7
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