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0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Yelena Akhtiorskaya Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A dazzling debut novel about a immigrant family living in Brooklyn and their struggle to learn the new rules of the American Dream

In this tale of two decades in the life of an immigrant household, the experience of a single family artfully reflects the fall of Communism and the rise of globalization. Ironies, subtle and glaring, are revealed: the Nasmertovs left Odessa for Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, with a huge sense of finality, only to find that the divide between the old world and the new is not nearly as clear-cut as they thought. The dissolution of the Soviet Union makes returning just a matter of a plane ticket, and the Russian-owned shops in their adopted neighborhood stock even the most obscure comforts of home. Pursuing the American Dream once meant giving up everything, but does the dream still work if the past is always within reach?

If the Nasmertov parents can afford only to look forward, learning the rules of aspiration, the family’s youngest, Frida, can only look back.

In striking, arresting prose loaded with fresh and inventive turns of phrase, Yelena Akhtiorskaya has written the first great novel of Brighton Beach: a searing portrait of hope and ambition and a profound exploration of the power and limits of language itself and its ability to make connections across cultures and generations.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This is not only a wise, funny novel; it feels like the beginning of a thrilling career. Yelena Akhtiorskaya’s sentences plunge the reader headlong in to the energy, anxiety, frailty, and love of the Nasmertov family of Brooklyn and Odessa. She finds poetry in clamor and disorder, and she sees her characters from every angle, with a rare mix of clarity and compassion.”

    Chad Harbach, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Sentence after sentence, Panic in a Suitcase is infused with humor and poetry, as Akhtiorskaya’s characters emerge beautiful and hilarious and splendorous in all their failings. Her language and intelligence achieve what only great literature can do: transform what you know and love into something strange and new, making the world realign itself according to the writer’s sensibility. I’d read a take-out menu written by Yelena Akhtiorskaya, but Panic in a Suitcase is a humbling, astonishing debut. Get to it as soon as you can.”

    Aleksandar Hemon, New York Times bestselling author

  • “The kind of fiction that is richer than real life…charged with consistently imaginative language and great verve…Akhtiorskaya’s prose keeps the pace moving as quickly as any suspenseful plot could. On every page, she writes about people and things with close attention…This sparkling debut, though it stays close to home, suggests she can roam wherever she’d like.”

    New York Times

  • “Akhtiorskaya’s genius is her ability to throw off observations that sound—if they weren’t so witty—like lines from a folktale. Her first novel, Panic in a Suitcase, is equal parts borscht stew and Borscht Belt—an immigration comedy that can’t tell whether it’s leaving or coming to America.”

    Washington Post

  • “Nearly Nabokovian.”

    New York magazine

  • “Capturing the irritations and intricacies of family life with Nabokovian humor and wit…[Akhtiorskaya] gets at capital-T Truth without a hint of sentimentality, achieving the intangible literary goal of showing our oft-banal world in a familiar yet astonishing light.”

    Elle

  • “A virtuosic debut…A wry look at immigrant life in the global age and the gulfs between countries and generations that language, with its heady solace, can only sometimes bridge.”

    Vogue

  • “A delight. Peopled with smartly drawn, humorously caricatured characters and packed with clever, evocative description, Panic in a Suitcase is a charming, chaotic read.”

    Huffington Post

  • Panic in a Suitcase isn’t just remarkable as a literary debut but also as a uniquely American work of fiction. It’s a testament to how diverse and unexpected the Brooklyn literary scene can be, but more than that, it’s a testament to Akhtiorskaya’s wit, generosity, and immense talent as a young American author.”

    NPR Books

  • “Sharply observed and very funny…a multitude of exuberant set pieces about modern émigré life, animated by Akhtiorskaya’s insider knowledge and her offbeat way with words.”

    NPR’s Fresh Air

  • “Yelena Akhtiorskaya is one of New York’s best young writers—funny and inventive and stylistically daring, yes, but also clear-eyed and honest.”

    The Millions

  • Panic joins a vast canon of immigrant tales, but its prose truly sets it apart, each sentence bursting with such striking imagery, syntactic complexity, and poeticism that it would do its own protagonist proud.”

    Nylon

  • “In this marvelous debut novel, a Russian immigrant family from Odessa arrives in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, to begin a new life, but leaving the old world to pursue the American dream isn’t quite what family members had imagined…A touching and darkly funny first novel that is sure to be adored by readers everywhere.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “Given current events, Akhtiorskaya’s debut—concerning an immigrant family’s ambivalent ties to America and those who choose to stay behind in Ukraine—could not be more timely…Akhtiorskaya’s sideways humor allows rays of genuine emotion to filter through the social and domestic satire.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “The Ukrainian Jewish family featured in this hilarious debut leaves Odessa for Brooklyn in 1991…Akhtiorskaya’s take on how family members manipulate and fail each other is spot-on…Akhtiorskaya excels at humorous, slightly overstated character sketches, making each person uniquely absurd.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Stefan Rudnicki takes listeners into the midst of the wonderful, funny, crazy characters in this debut novel…Rudnicki colors their stories with all the dark humor, varied emotion, and bittersweet tones of a melancholy violin…Rudnicki offers perfect pronunciations of Yiddish expressions, and his superb performance removes all distance between listener and characters.”

    AudioFile

  • “Told from the intimate perspective of an insider, this exhilarating, hilarious first novel captures the bustling commotion of the immigrant experience.”

    Booklist

  • “I think Yelena Akhtiorskaya is a genius. What she manages to do, linguistically and emotionally, in the span of a single sentence is astonishing.”

    Keith Gessen, author of All the Sad Young Literary Men

  • “Yelena Akhtiorskaya creates a beautifully precise and vibrant world populated by touching, funny, unforgettable characters. A true joy to read.”

    Lara Vapnyar, author of Memoirs of a Muse

  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, July 2014
  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A 2014 New York Times Notable Book
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About the Author

Yelena Akhtiorskaya was born in Odessa and raised in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and is the recipient of a Posen Fellowship in fiction. Her writing has appeared in n+1, the New Republic, Triple Canopy, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.