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Red Weather: A Novelby Pauls Toutonghi
"If this tale of befuddled ethnicity sounds as if it could veer dangerously toward sitcom-style wackiness, fear not. Toutonghi excels at a dry, sly wit that packs a soft, droll punch....
Synopses & Reviews
The setting is Milwaukee, Wisconsin — if not America's heart, then at least its liver — home to an array of breweries and abandoned factories and down-on-their-luck Eastern European immigrants. The year is 1989.
Revolutions are sweeping through the nations of the Eastern Bloc. Communism is unraveling. And nobody feels this unraveling more piquantly than Yuri Balodis — a fifteen-year-old first-generation American living with his Latvian-immigrant parents in Milwaukee's Third Ward.
It's a turbulent time. And when Yuri falls in love with Hannah Graham — the daring daughter of a prominent local socialist — chaos ensues. Within weeks, Yuri is ensnared by both Hannah and socialism. He joins the staff of the Socialist Worker. He starts quoting Lenin and Marx indiscriminately.
His parents, of course, are horrified and deeply saddened. They try to educate him, to show him why, in their opinion, communism has ruined so many lives. But Yuri is stubborn. And his ideological betrayal will have more serious consequences than breaking his parents' hearts.
Red Weather is by turns funny and bittersweet, tinged with a rueful comic sense that will instantly remind you of the absurd complications of love. Pauls Toutonghi's stunning debut novel is at once reminiscent of Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner.
"Toutonghi's tragicomic debut novel paints a loving, cockeyed picture of the Soviet immigrant experience in the twilight of the Cold War. Yuri Balodis, a painfully thin, bookish 15-year-old living in Milwaukee with his parents, narrates with adolescent angst tempered by retrospective wisdom. Proud to have escaped Soviet Latvia under trying circumstances, Yuri's mother and father (who works as a janitor) have embraced America, choosing to speak only their own idiosyncratic brand of English and decorating their small apartment with glossy magazine ads. In 1989, Yuri watches the fall of the Berlin Wall on television, plays host to Latvian relatives who may or may not be seeking asylum, and dabbles in socialism, an interest derived mostly from his passion for wild-haired Hannah Graham, a Socialist Worker vendor. Yuri's patriotic parents, particularly his hard-drinking father, Rudolfi, are outraged by Yuri's espousal of Marxist rhetoric, a blatant form of teenage rebellion. Oblivious to everything except his own obsession with Hannah, Yuri fails to recognize his father's love, and the implications of his own recklessness, until it's almost too late. Toutonghi's carefully observed character details, evocation of working-class Milwaukee and tales of the old country effectively walk the line between realism and absurdity. (May) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Toutonghi...writes with an assured hand and a quirky, wry sense of humor. Yuri and his small family...are memorable and lovingly drawn....[A] first novel of uncommon poise and power." Booklist
"There's a fine novella somewhere inside Toutonghi's debut....Toutonghi is an observant writer, but he stalks a demure middle ground, never offering outright humor or drama." Kirkus Reviews
"The stunningly quiet ending reverberates back through the whole book....It's a touching act of homage from a novelist who is foolish and brave enough to sacrifice his own prospects of writing an original novel for the greater good of a love letter to his father." Daniel Swift, The New York Times Book Review
"Quite a lovely technical feat for a first-time novelist — and Rudolfi is quite a memorable character....The plot seems necessary rather than contrived, and though it is slow to unfold, the book never tries the reader's patience." Chicago Tribune
"Red Weather is a lightning rod of captivating humor, colorful characters and well-crafted prose. Make this your rainy-day book." Seattle Times
"Toutonghi's debut would make a good book club selection and may appeal to readers who enjoy Gary Shteyngart's novels." Library Journal
About the Author
Pauls Toutonghi is a first-generation American. He has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, and his writing has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Zoetrope, One Story, and the Boston Review. He lives in Brooklyn.
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