I read this book for the Mount TBR reading challenge 2014.
The Funeral Party – Lyudmila Ulitskaya
Alik is dying of a paralysis that started in his limbs and will suffocate him to death when it reaches his diaphragm. He emigrated from the USSR to New York in the early Seventies and made kind of a living as a painter, as in art, not houses. 1991 finds him on his deathbed, but surrounded by his wife, ex-lovers and friends. His wife Nina is an alcoholic who thinks Alik’s conversion from non-observant Judaism to Orthodox Christianity will help make medicinal potions effective. Valentina is an ex-lover as is Irina who has a fifteen-year-old daughter nicknamed Teeshirt.
The appeal of this short readable novel is that Ulitskaya creates thumbnail sketches of the characters. The reader can tell she likes to give details about her characters’ stories. But she never gives too many details. Nor does she dig into their heads much. The stories in this novel give a sense of the diversity of the Russian emigrant experience in New York City.
Granted, there’s a certain amount of stereotypical Russian large than life big-heartedness. But that never gets tedious. One plus for variety is that Ulitskaya introduces a group of Guaraní speakers from Paraguay. They provide diverting laughter and music.
I would start this book slowly in order to keep the names and relationships straight.