Saturday, June 27, 2009

Short Story Saturday: "Companion" & "Maia in Yonkers" by Sana Krasikov

Reviewing short stories individually is a new exercise for me. They are short for one thing. And while some may pack a big punch within a few pages, jotting down my thoughts for a single story still feels somehow incomplete. I have a number of short story collections and anthologies sitting on my shelves, and my plan is to work my way through them, one by one. I have gotten into the habit of reading collections and anthologies of short stories as if I were reading a novel, reading story after story with no break in between, all the while searching for overreaching themes and ideas. I may still do that to some degree, however, I also want to take advantage of the fact that the short stories in a collection can be read independently from one another. It may be that I devote several Short Story Saturdays to one collection or I will cover a book of short stories all at once. I may even stray from my TBR pile and mention a short story I find online or in a magazine.

I decided to begin my short story reading with Sana Krasikov's One More Year: Stories. I only have a half hour break for lunch during the day and it seemed fitting to fill that time with a short story while I was inbetween novels this past week.
Since she'd arrived in America and gotten divorced, Ilona Siegal had been set up three times. [excerpt from "Companion"]
And so opens Ilona's story in "Companion." Divorced and with no where to go, Ilona had moved in with a man twenty-five years her senior. Earl is ailing and Ilona fills a need for him, caring for him occasionally and keeping him company. Much like Earl, she is lonely, only he does not quite fill that same need that she does for him. Her friends do not seem to understand her anymore, having moved on with their own lives. She has been set up with numerous men, the most recent a fellow Georgian who has come to the country seeking a better life and more opportunity. Ilona herself longs for love, for someone who will show her appreciation and affection.

I did not find Ilona especially likeable; she struck me as someone who uses others, particularly men, to get what she wants. At the same time, I could not help but admire her strength and instinct for survival. She was a woman who followed her heart, coming to America for love only to have lost it. And yet, she continues to search for it even after.

I next turned to "Maia in Yonkers," the story of a Maia, a woman who made her way to the United States to support her family, leaving behind her son, Gogi, in Georgia (former Soviet Union). Her sister, Lela, had been kind enough to take him in, only he is older now and harder to control, hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Maia's son, Gogi, is coming for a visit to New York. She could not be more excited. He has changed so much since she last saw him. He is older now and angry. Being separated from his mother has been difficult for him too. My heart went out to him, even when I was most frustrated with him.
He's still a big child, with a child's magical oblivion to danger. This is why children win Olympic medals, she thinks, why audiences go to hear ten-year-old violinists; at their age, the music is still more real for them than the crowd. [excerpt from "Maia in Yonkers"]
I instantly liked Maia. She has had a difficult life. Her husband was killed years before, and she was left to try and fend for what was left of her family. She traveled to a completely foreign country, took up a job caring for an elderly woman and is doing what she can to support her family back home. Being separated from her family and all she knows is the biggest struggle of all. Yet she perseveres.

Sana Karsikov has a gift for drawing out her characters in only a few pages and telling their stories in so few words. Within both of these stories, the readers are offered only a slice of their lives, and yet we still come away knowing much about them, including their struggles and their hopes. The immigrant story is one I am drawn to, and Sana Karsikov captures it quite well in these first two stories, in particular the second. I look forward to my continued reading of One More Year.

(Short Story Saturday is brought to you by the host of Short Story Sunday, James of Ready When You Are, C.B., & Short Story Monday, John of The Book Mine Set.)


  1. I read one story at a time even if it they are in the same book. The only Short Story book I remember cover to cover was Interpreter of Maladies. I just couldn't put it down :)

    I agree it's kind of difficult to review just one short story without spoilers, you did a good job though.

  2. I think you'll find reviewing short stories is different from reviewing books. I certainly did. I had to develop an approach that was not based on plot. It took a little while to do, but it's fun now to have a two different types of reviews going.

  3. It can be difficult to review a short story, but I think you did a superb job!

  4. I'd definitely like to start reading more short stories in between my longer reads, but I just need to wrap my mind around just reading one and then stopping instead of reading them all in a row. And I need to figure out a formula for reviewing them, too! You did a nice job - love the quote you chose to share about Gogi.

  5. I love her phrasing of "a child's magical oblivion...", it's so true.

  6. Thanks for taking the time to post about the short stories that you're currently reading. This book sounds interesting and I look forward to your thoughts on the rest of them!!

  7. Violet - I am not sure why I feel compelled to read a short story book as if it were a full-length novel. Probably out of habit. :-) Thank you!

    C.B. James - I can already tell this will be a work in progress, one I'm looking forward to exploring.

    Kathy - Thank you, Kathy!

    Megan - It makes sense to do that, doesn't it? We just have to make a habit of it. :-) I imagine it will take a little time before I completely break myself of the habit. Thanks so much for your kind words.

    Carrie(Patience) - Isn't that a great phrase? That one really stood out for me.

    Staci - I think I'll be experimenting for awhile how I want to do this short story thing. I am really enjoying the book and can't wait to read more.

  8. Wendy...
    This is for you

  9. I agree, it is a bit hard to review short stories. I always feel that I'm going to giveaway everything!

    I have this collection on my shelves but haven't gotten around to it. I was doing pretty good earlier in the year reading more short stories but I sort of stopped doing that. I need to get back to them as I finally feel like I really appreciate them now.

  10. Hi Wendy- I have recently gotten more into short stories. Reviewing each one on its own sounds like it would be a great way to get at the depths of each story- good idea! I just finished a really great (in my opinion) collection- Between the Assassinations, by Aravind Adiga. If you have room on the TBR, you might want to check it out.

  11. Iliana - Yes, it does sometimes seem as if I will give away too much.

    I am enjoying this collection quite a bit. I haven't ran into a story I haven't liked yet.

    Aarti - I will have to look for that one. Thanks for the recommendation! I think I have a Aravind Adiga book on my shelf. The White Tiger, I believe. It'll be interesting to compare the authors short stories with the novel.


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