To start off my Summer Reading 2014, I began with Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan. After loving Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, I figured I would also love Absurdistan. But I was not as taken with it as I hoped. The main character, Misha, was completely unlikeable. I realize that the point of some novels is to have an "anti-hero" but Misha had practically no redeemable qualities. However, story itself was interesting.
The novel told the tale of Misha who is stuck in St. Petersburg, Russia after his father murders an American, then Misha journeys to Absurdistan to obtain an illegal passport so he can get back to America. The New York Times ranked Absurdistan as one of the best books of 2006, writing in a book review, "Like a victorious wrestler, this novel is so immodestly vigorous, so burstingly sure of its barbaric excellence, that simply by breathing, sweating and standing upright it exalts itself." When Misha is in Absurdistan, the story picks up and becomes a wonderful political satire on countries torn apart by civil war, oil, and western influence. Even though the book references oil companies like Halliburton & Bechtel, this book is definitely not one of "social issues or geopolitical controversies." The reader experiences the story through Misha's viewpoint, and he is more focused on himself than what is happening around him. For example, when he is learning the history of the Sevo people, he can only focus on the body of his tour guide. Overall, this novel was an engrossing, if at times dragging, story of one man's journey to try to return to America and confront his identity. Rating: ★★★