It’s been almost 20 years since I visited the Soviet Union. And almost 20 years since it collapsed. Since then all sorts of changes have occurred in Russia: a capitalist society, more freedom to travel, stocked shelves, and a growing friendship (maybe) with the United States.
In her collection of short stories titled The Red Passport (Picador, 2003), Katherine Shonk captures the changes in Russia right after the fall of the USSR. She writes about Americans who live in Moscow and St. Petersburg; young Russians who yearn to move to America or at least become more American; and Americans who want to stay in Russia or at least become more Russian.
Shonk touches upon issues such as the war in Chechnya, the aftermath of Chernobyl, and Russian mail order brides, all while focusing on interpersonal relationships. Her stories don’t often (if at all) end on a bright point or with a clean conclusion. It keeps the reader thinking.
Which reminds me of when I read her debut novel, Happy Now? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux,2010). Shonk is a talented writer who often delves into sensitive family and relationship topics. I look forward to reading more from her.