Confession: I didn’t finish this book. I made it about halfway through, realized that I still wasn’t engaged in the story in the slightest, and decided I had other things I’d rather read.
I always feel a little bit like I’ve cheated when I don’t finish a book – as though the second half of a story that I just didn’t click with might suddenly become life changing, if only I hadn’t walked away. But in reality, time is precious and short, and I do believe it should be spent reading things that move you, entertain you, or at least teach you something.
That said, I know that Gary Shteyngart is a brilliant satirist, and I certainly don’t aim to dispute that label. His vision of the very near future is thought provoking, annoyingly accurate, and alarming as heck. I can see how pieces of this novel could be hilarious if I were set up with a different sense of humor. It just wasn’t for me.
Maybe it was the unchecked cynacism (I do well with dark novels, as long as they have that subtle strand of warmth woven into them somewhere – I felt the first half of this novel lacked that warmth), or maybe it was the excessive crassness of all of the characters (I understand that our society is headed that way, but good grief. I need some air now and again), but I’ve loved books with either or both of those problems before. I just didn’t connect with this story. For whatever reason, though the main character was exactly the sort I’d usually buy into, I simply wasn’t inspired to laugh, or care.
Which isn’t to say you won’t be, or that I think you’re wrong if you were. But I’m not adding this one to the list of recommended reading. If one of you has actually, you know, finished the book, and you’d like to defend it, I’d love to be convinced I’m wrong!