cover image Our Country Friends

Our Country Friends

Gary Shteyngart. Random House, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-984855-12-1

Shteyngart (Lake Success) returns with the droll and heartfelt story of a Russian American couple who invite a group of friends to ride out the lockdown with them on their Hudson Valley “estate” in March 2020. Sasha Senderovsky, a bumbling writer, clumsily prepares for his guests: “Because he did not believe in road marks or certain aspects of relativity, the concept of a blind curve continued to elude him,” Shteyngart writes of Sasha’s driving, which ends with a case of liquor shattered in the trunk. Sasha’s wife, Masha, bans smoking on the property, which Sasha allows his friend Ed Kim to break immediately after showing Ed to his bungalow, one of five along with the main house. There’s also Vinood Mehta, a once aspiring writer whose abandoned manuscript factors into a late-breaking plot involving jealousy and betrayal. The couple’s eight-year-old adopted daughter, Nat, who is of Chinese descent and is obsessed with K-pop, bonds with their friend Karen Cho, who, like Ed, is Korean, and Shteyngart drops in about as many illuminating details about the Korean diaspora as he does about Russian immigrants and their American children. The author shows great care for his characters, making Sasha’s vulnerability particularly palpable when an uncertain screenwriting project threatens his financial stability. Shteyngart’s taken the formula for a smart, irresistible comedy of manners and expertly brought it up to the moment. Agent: Denise Shannon, Denise Shannon Literary. (Nov.)