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Just finished this book. Really enjoyed it. Simple plot but very colourful, easy to read and interesting. It’s basically about this Russian emigre to NY, an artist, who is dying from a mysterious disease. It’s about the various people that are around him and visit him; his wife, his ex-lovers, friends, etc.

Although it sounds quite dark, I found it subtlely humorous at parts especially the way the main character, Alik, reacts to his own infirmities, situation and people around him even until death. The only thing I found difficult was the number of character that are quickly introduced makes it sometimes hard to follow who is who. But the characters are interesting, the mood that Ludmila was able to evoke created vivid images of the hot NY apartment in my mind. All in, I really enjoyed it and probably one of those books I’ll pick up some time again for a easy but interesting read.

Synopsis from Publishers Weekly: The oddly matched protagonists in this award-winning Russian author’s lively American debut are connected through their love for the artist Alik, a Russian emigre keeling merrily toward death. Alik’s loved ones gather at his cramped, stiflingly hot downtown Manhattan apartment, each trying to reconcile their memories with their moral obligations to the dying man. His neurotic wife, Nina, is desperate for Alik to be baptized; Maika, the 15-year-old daughter of his ex-lover, Irina, is upset that no one understands Alik’s jokes now that the man is sick.Ulitskaya uses the loved ones’ varying emigration experiences to underscore their attempts to respect one another’s places in Alik’s life and at his deathbed. One friend, for example, cannot get his impressive medical credentials certified in the U.S., while another not only passed his exams in record time but took advantage of advances in Western technology and found work in a cutting-edge field of medicine & still, both live in poverty. Irina, a former circus acrobat, performed at night for “rich idiots,” using her earnings to graduate from law school, while Nina, a former model, now finds nothing for herself to do in the U.S. besides tend to Alik and drink. Ulitskaya is adept at capturing the subtle nuances of thought and experience, expressing both human spirit and flaws without false sentimentality. Her characters are fully realized, rendered in extraordinary detail.

A brief aside about the author: Ludmila Ulitskaya was born in Russia and was trained as a geneticist. Her novels and short stories have been published in Russia, France, Germany, and elsewhere; The Funeral Party is her American debut. She lives in Moscow.

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