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God Lives in St. Petersburg: And Other Storiesby Tom Bissell
Synopses & Reviews
Here are six fictional stories about Americans colliding with a remote and often perilous part of the world:
Two journalists, stranded in wartime Afghanistan, are taken in by a warlord who becomes the arbiter of their fates.
A female scientist investigating the Aral Sea disaster is drawn into a trap by a former KGB officer.
On a hike through Kazakhstan, Jayne and Douglas’s marriage unravels when their guide, a veteran of the Soviet-Afghanistan war, takes an unseemly interest in Jayne.
The son of an American ambassador addicted to the seamy underside of a Central Asian city finally gets in over his head.
In the Pushcart Prize–winning title story, a tortured missionary struggles to reconcile his sexual urges with his faith.
A young man just back from a long stint in Kyrgyz-stan finds his relationship with his fiancée all but destroyed.
Sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, but always eerily affecting, these stories show us deeply foreign lands and peoples through our own eyes. Impressive in both range and emotional acuity, God Lives in St. Petersburg is a stunning fictional debut by a “wildly talented” (Outside) young writer.
"In this sharp, hip collection of stories, Bissell fictionalizes his experiences in Central Asia, which were first aired in his nonfiction debut Chasing the Sea. Bissell has a predilection for school-of-Eggers deadpan irony and pop culture references, but if his knowingness sometimes grates, his witticisms are rarely gratuitous; the conflation of American consumerism with the barrenness of the Central Asian landscape gives these stories a striking immediacy: 'Afghan men tended to wear their scarves atop their heads in vaguely muffin-shaped bundles or around their necks with aviator flair.... This was called terrorist style...' 'Death Defier' follows a pair of Western journalists as they flee a war-torn Afghan city only to end up in the care of a warlord who dispatches one of them in search of an unlikely folk remedy for the other's malaria. In 'Aral,' an American scientist investigating the destruction of the Aral Sea is kidnapped by a KGB operative bent on showing the world how pollution has crippled his children and his country. The stunning title story depicts a missionary stationed in Russia who loses his faith as he is overcome by sexual desire. The story's deeply disturbing conclusion is a reminder of the short distance between the help offered by outsiders and the harm they do. Bissell never flinches as he looks straight into the starved hearts of his characters. In these chilling stories of a region ravaged by war, exile and neglect, desperation drives men and women to do the otherwise unthinkable, and no one is quite forgiven for their transgressions. Forecast: Booksellers can recommend this to fans of Jonathan Safran Foer and other hipster chroniclers of Americans abroad (including Dave Eggers, natch). " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In God Lives in St. Petersburg, Bissell reveals himself to be not only a subtle craftsman but also a mordant observer of a new generation lost in a complex and dangerous world." Pankaj Mishra, The New York Times Book Review
"[A] slim but rigorous debut collection of six darkly passionate stories....Graham and Ernest move over, you've got company." Kirkus Reviews
In this exciting collection, the acclaimed author of Chasing the Sun turns his keenly observant eye to fiction with sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious adventures and misadventures of Americans colliding with the unfamiliar in Central Asia.
About the Author
Tom Bissell is the author of Chasing the Sea (available in paperback from Vintage Books) and contributes to Harper’s Magazine, The Believer, and other publications. He lives in New York.
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