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Leaving Katya Hardcover – Feb 2002


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The more I undressed her, the more foreign Katya seemed. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 16 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An insightful novel about love and cultural disconnect 3 May 2002
By Mollie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a slyly funny, moving and articulate book that will ring bells with anyone who has lived abroad in a land they don't quite understand or who has tried to be in a relationship with someone from a very different background. The main character in the book, Daniel (a 20-something recently out of college who is trying to form his career and his identity) hooks up with a Russian woman, Katya, and finds the foreigness right in his own bedroom.
The odd couple ends up getting married (is it love or convenience, or a mix of both?) and writer Paul Greenberg explores the resulting emotional tangle in a way that will make you fondly remember (or cringe over) your first really intense love affair. This book is a must-read.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
"Russian: more of a diagnosis than a nationality" 23 May 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I must offer my congratulations to Paul Greenberg, who had a good material for a novel, and persevered through the years to complete its writing. The conception of a personal novel, "Leaving Katya", undoubtedly must have been a daunting task, a catharsis for the author, a fact willingly admitted by the author himself. That said, the novel is quite a surprise for a Slavic reader with American experiences like myself. The source of the surprise is that Paul Greenberg managed to nail quite a few essential barriers that divide the Russians from the Americans, or the Slavs from the Anglo-Saxons, as we may venture to say without a substantial loss of generality. At one point, late in the novel, the protagonist confesses that to take Russia out of him is as possible as changing his (weak) character. "Leaving Katya" is a story about two incompatible people who are thrust upon each other by the cruel hand of Fate. Thus begins the long-standing Daniel's infatuation with Mother Russia, aroused by his personal experiences with his newlywed Yekaterina Konstantinova, but not surprisingly, strengthened and firmly instituted or, to apply a better phrase, institutionalized by his numerous visits to the falling Soviet Union and then Russian Federation.
Short as this novel is, it merely skims portions of the surface of the complex relationship between Russian émigrés and America, American impressions of Russia, Russian impressions of America, and the idiosyncrasy of both lands. Nevertheless, since no deep analysis seems to have been the aim of the author, one cannot hold this fact against him and his novel. The modest goal of "Leaving Katya" is to provide a personal insight into the inevitable clash of cultures. The sparks must fly all around when a conscientious member of a nation with an over thousand years long history is faced with the melting, culture-less pot of America, and vice versa, the identity-less member of the blandly uncharacteristic American mass is faced with the strength of the Russian nationality and an enormous cultural and behavioral burden it necessarily carries with itself. The author bitterly notes the feeling of inadequacy he feels in such circumstances, broods over his jealousy and his inferiority complex. On the other hand, he never gives up, and despite the stone of awareness roped to his neck, he fights for what he considers his, for whom he considers his, Katya, as it were. I smiled to myself when initially Daniel mused in his daydreams; how grand it would be to join the cultures, to enrich the forthcoming generation with the wealth of cultural heritage from both lands, to only wake up with a hand in a night pot afterwards, when a realization dawns on him that it is simply not possible. With a cultural heritage as strong and as unique as Russian, you cannot count on any kind of its reconciliation with its antithesis, the American uniformized society consisting of disconnected individuals with no particular identity. Either one side melts into the other, or vice versa. Only when we allow one flower to die, the other may bloom. Such is the inescapable fate, this is the truth to be faced, one which cannot be avoided.
On the other hand, Greenberg makes a series of brilliant per-exemplum observations on how both lifestyles of the protagonists, for lack of a better word-and by extension, the cultures they come from-fail to preserve what is most crucial, necessary for the survival of the nation - the family, the bastion of identity. The sad difference is that the Eastern family was mangled and vandalized by the system, while the Western family just evaporated in a self-selective natural process of decay. "Leaving Katya", while a bit too brief and underdeveloped in some aspects, is brutally close to the truth when it comes to the analysis of the cultural differences. As such, it might be of interest for people who are fond of their critical outlook on their own society, whichever it might be, but also for people whose fate resembled Katya's or Daniel's to a smaller or larger extent. Like myself.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The brightest colors 15 April 2002
By Anna Engelberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Leaving Katya by Paul Greenberg is a very funny but sensitive account of a young man's first real adventure in love. The object of his affections happens to be from the Soviet Union/Russia which provides the perfect metaphor for the strangeness, the foreigness that can sometimes be both the raison d'etre and the bette noire of romance. No place feels more foreign to Daniel, the book's hero, or more compelling. There is something recognizable and strangely comforting about the Russia phase and the affair with Katya. As someone who lived in Russia for several years, I often felt I was living in a country whose history followed the trajectory a giant mood swing, where emotions were the brightest colors in a grey reality. Daniel struggles for the most part with himself , how to appreciate both what is recognizable and what is foreign in another person and isn't that what love is all about, after all? A wonderfully written, charming and brave account with an authentic feel for the culture and people of the Former Soviet Union.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Anna Karenina with a hint of Woody Allen 16 Feb 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm normally not a fan of love stories, but this novel is so funny and poignant, I felt compelled to weigh in with my thoughts. The author's insight into his characters -- both Russian and American -- is so sharp that when I put the book down I still felt they were in the room. The comedy and tragedy of the romance between the sweet, neurotic Daniel and the quixotic Katya holds you to the very last page and beyond. Excuse the pun, but after reading this work, it's extremely hard to leave Katya behind.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The Russian Hooker 6 April 2002
By "lewzayre" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Leaving Katya is a poignant memoir of a young American's struggle with his Russian girlfriend (and later, temporarily, his wife). This short and entertaining story is both funny and sad, a bittersweet lesson on the difficulties in a cross-cultural relationship.
As someone who has gone through his own "Russian Phase," I can only say that author Paul Greenberg has done a wonderful job of presenting the enigmatic and mysterious nature of these magnificent women. The Russian culture encourages their young women to trade sex and affection for monetary and social gain. Many of these women have tremendous educations that go for naught in the chauvinistic Russian society. I would agree that it's not so much the fault of the Russian women but of their environment. But a spade is a spade, and a hooker is a hooker.
When these common opportunists get a chance to cash in over here in America, they can become relentless. It's like turning a starving kid loose in a candy store. Of course, these young gold diggers don't see it that way, which creates the cultural problem faced by Greenberg's young protagonist.
Katya could never come to grips with the abject poverty she unexpectedly faced when she came to New York to live with Daniel. It was gratifying to see that Daniel actually became quite successful after Katya decamped for Russia. I guess there is justice after all.
Greenberg's dialogue, his situations, his settings and his sense of Russian history are all believable and accurate. I live in New York City and can assure you that he captured the essence of our great metropolis perfectly. And Greenberg adheres to the literary Holy Grail by writing about what he knows. All this goes to make his story credible and instructional.
I was also impressed by the way the relationship between Daniel and Katya just slipped away, especially when readers like myself were hoping for reconciliation. Not all relationships end suddenly and dramatically and not all relationships get patched up. The author deserves credit for recognizing this. The real tragedy in this story is that Daniel and Katya loved each other and could probably have resurrected their relationship.
This book is obviously autobiographical and represents a large part of the author's life. What can he now do as a sequel? The problem with memoirs like Leaving Katya is that your life can't always continue to provide the material you need to write.
I am quite sure that I'm not alone in wishing Paul Greenberg continued success in his writing career...
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