Natasha and Other Stories
Author: David Bezmozgis
Genre: Short stories
About Natasha and Other Stories: Seven connected short stories, semi-autobiographical.
- Roman Berman, Massage Therapist
- The Second Strongest Man
- An Animal to the Memory
- 2007 – Canada Reads – Shortlisted
- 2005 – Danuta Gleed Literary Award – Winner
- 2004 – Governor General's Literary Award: Fiction – Shortlisted
Review of Natasha and Other Stories
Mark Berman and his parents, Roman and Bella, are Russian Jews who left the Soviet Union in 1980 and came to Canada.
As my mother, aunt, cousin, and I wept, my father and uncle kept an eye out for Israeli agents. These agents were known to inspect compartments. Any indication that we had close relatives on the buses would bring questions: Why were we separating the family? Why were we rejecting our Israeli visas? Why were we so ungrateful to the State of Israel, which had, after all, provided us with the means to escape the Soviet Union?
The answer to these questions, for my father and uncle, was 150 million angry Arabs.
...from page 67, "An Animal to the Memory"
The stories follow Mark and his family as they try to adjust to life in a new country. They struggle with the language and with rules (both governmental and societal) that they don't always understand. They want a better life but it's not easy.
In "Tapka", Mark and his cousin are given the responsibility of exercising a neighbour's prized dog. But language and financial difficulties lead to near-tragedy.
In "Roman Berman, Massage Therapist", Mark's father attempts to resume his former career.
In "The Second Strongest Man", Mark is reacquainted with a childhood idol.
In "An Animal to the Memory", an angry Mark butts heads with a determined rabbi.
In "Natasha", a teenaged Mark meets the daughter of his uncle's new wife and learns some painful lessons.
In "Choynski", while his grandmother is dying, Mark researches a Jewish boxer with the help of an aging sportswriter.
In "Minyan", Mark's grandfather struggles to find subsidized housing and meets an old Jewish couple who aren't entirely welcome in their building.
Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, Natasha and Other Stories is a very well-written book. The characters are engaging, the text is straightforward, and the stories are interesting. It would have been nice to have had more stories but maybe he's saving them for next time. Worth reading.
Reviewed by Lynn Bornath.
- ‘From Russia, with stories’. Robert Fulford, The National Post, 27 May 2003.
- “...a gift for swift, sharp storytelling.”
- Nicholas Dinka, Quill & Quire, May 2004.
- “Through the music of language and the language of symbol, Bezmozgis drives home the mystery and complexity of the most mundane-seeming events.”
- ‘Strangers From Europe, Alone in a Strange Land’. Richard Eder, New York Times, 8 June 2004.
- “...despite autobiographical parallels the stories are unencumbered and sometimes lustrous fiction.”
- ‘Premature Deification’. Evan Gillespie, PopMatters, 29 June 2004.
- “The bulk of Natasha, while skillfully—sometimes even beautifully—written, is hardly newsworthy.”
- ‘From Russia With Hope.’ David Abrams, January Magazine, June 2004.
- “...the full effect of Bezmozgis' talent doesn't sink in until hours after you've stopped reading.”
- Daniel Septimus. Originally published in the Jerusalem Post, 1 July 2004.
- “Still, Natasha is much more than an outsider's look at the culture of North American Jewry. Bezmozgis's prose is virtually flawless, simple and fluid.”
- Juliet Waters, Montreal Mirror, 1 July 2004.
- “...highly resonant and original stories...”
- John Mutford, The Book Mine Set, December 26, 2006
- “Bezmozgis says so much with so little.”
- Michelle, 1morechapter.com, 22 April 2009
- “This is one of the best short story collections I've read.”
- Deanna McFadden, My Tragic Right Hip, 2 February 2010
- “The stories are sparse but not sparing, swift without feeling rushed, and amazing portraits of a family in flux”
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Added 27 July 2007.
Updated 04 September 2013.