The Irresistibles: Lyrical, Luscious Reads

From a hilarious futuristic novel to a comedy of manners about a late-life love affair, you’ll want to read these literary standouts over and over again.
The Free World

The Free World

368 pages; Farrar, Straus and Giroux
How dreamy—summer in Rome and the nearby seaside with family and friends. Except that the Soviet Jews thrown together there in David Bezmozgis's electrifying debut novel The Free World (FSG) are immigrants and refugees stranded in 1978 as they await visas to their Promised Land, wherever that may be. Canada? The United States? Australia? Bezmozgis, himself a transplant from Latvia to Toronto, displays a quicksilver empathy and quiet, burning admiration for the strong women attached to three generations of Krasnanskys, a family that Roman exile threatens to break apart. The matriarch, Emma, is a "simple creature" sidelined by the chaos of change. Her daughter-in-law Polina, a Christian among Jews, contends with a wayward husband, Alec, the handsome, slippery lover boy at the story's violent core. Both women have lost children, a bond that unites them despite the differences in their marriages, their ages, and their experiences of Rome. As for the men—oy: criminal mishaps, misguided love affairs, and a stubborn refusal to let go of a Soviet past even though it betrayed them with anti-Semitism, famine, and war. Along with the darkness, though, there is beauty here: "Dmitri led them out of the necropolis, past a statue of a headless, armless man in a toga, and along a street of bleached stone ruins, with their exposed floors mutely resigned to the whims of the sky." These are the charms of the ancient city, but for the Krasnanskys they can't compare to the lure of a new life.
— Celia McGee

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