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Paperback Last Chicken in America: A Novel in Stories Book

ISBN: 0393333574

ISBN13: 9780393333572

Last Chicken in America: A Novel in Stories

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

In twelve "pristine, entrancing" (Booklist) linked stories, Ellen Litman introduces an unforgettable cast of Russian-Jewish immigrants trying to assimilate in a new world. Tender and wryly funny, these stories trace Masha's and her fellow immigrants' struggles to find a place in a new society lonely seniors, families grappling with unemployment and depression, and young adults searching for love."

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Atleechnah! Agromnayah spasseba Ellen Litman ('excellent, huge thanks' pah russky)

Ellen Litman is a wonderful new writer and I can't recommend this collection of stories too much (many are connected like threads in a novel). Litman's prose is a joy to read... clear, witty, moving and probes minute details without getting stuck in self-indulgence like some writers I've had to slog through. Yes, some of the characters were of more interest to me than others: a single mom in a world without men, a babysitter working for a joyless family. But you will acutely feel the stresses each of them feel trying to encounter and grasp this foreign culture into which they're trust. Litman understands the self-loathing and sense of inferiority internalized by immigrants, how so many men in this situation loose their sense of self and their power, forced to do jobs that are several steps 'below' what they were doing in the motherland. How they'll never really be Americans and the conflict surrounding whether they even want to be absorbed by the bizarre culture that surrounds them. The Last Chicken In America will have any reader thinking about what American culture is and isn't, and both how unnourishing and offering of opportunities the U.S. can be. I'm looking forward to Litman's next book.

Much more than just another "immigrant book"

It's ironic that one reviewer here complained that the subjects of the stories in this collection aren't unique to immigrant life, since that very fact is one of the book's strengths: 'The Last Chicken' may be about a very specific immigrant community, but its stories explore themes that are universal to the human experience -- love, death, marriage, aging, jealousy, illness, struggle, joy. This, along with Litman's beautifully clean prose, subtle humor and empathy for her characters, is why the "The Last Chicken" is such a satisfying read. To the Squirrel Hill residents who have come to vent their anger here: I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the fact that you find Litman's stories to be such an accurate depiction of the realities of your lives is the best possible endorsement you could give the book. Naturally Litman has drawn on real people and situations to create her characters and stories; all fiction writers do. Ironically, the fictionalized portraits she has painted of Squirrel Hill's residents in her book are far more subtle and sympathetic than the portraits they've painted of their (non-fictional) selves here.

A plus debut novel

Ellen Litman's linked stories are filled with unforgettable characters who stuck in my head, days after I finished reading. So instead of picking up that crusty copy of The Idiot, I recommend picking up this wonderful book by a new, very talented russian writer.

America through the eyes of outsiders

I thought I'd add my two cents worth. This is a wonderful little collection of short stories, that accurately capture aspects of both American life, as well as the rather quirky middle class concerns of a little Pittsburgh Russian community. I'd recommend this to anyone who's interested in American society as seen through the eyes of outsiders, which is what many of these characters are, in various ways. They're clearly American through and through, yet they bring their unique cultural and philosophical concerns with them, as baggage. And its fascinating to see US society through the lens of these quite accurately drawn characters, as they go about their daily lives, and try to make sense of both their own existences, as well as the all encompassing landscape of modern America. Litman brings a cool and analytical eye to bear on US society, almost accidentally, as her stories unfold - which makes it doubly fascinating to read. On a side note, disregard the quite hysterical review by the otherwise charmingly-named 'fluffy' - who sounds like someone with an agenda. Normal and sane book reviewers don't use words like 'defamation' and 'smearing' or 'self hatred' - unless there's some sort of weird personal agenda at work. Who knows? Who cares. The book is great reading, and has no hatred or negativity that I could see. If anything, there's clearly a deep compassion for her quite fascinating characters, who're struggling to make decent and happy lives for themselves, in the often odd world of modern America. I'd highly recommend this book, as it captures some interesting parts of a sub-culture, and an American-immigrant reality, that most of us will never see. Very nice work.

hilarious, moving & uplifting

"The Last Chicken," is the best novel-in-stories I've read in years. Like her fellow immigrant-authors Jhumpa Lahiri, Amy Tan and Gary Shteyngart, Ellen Litman first and foremost tells a great story. When I read the stories in "The Last Chicken," I feel like I'm in Squirrel Hill, along with the characters, in their houses, eating the various Russian foods, having breakfast conversations over scratchy wooden tables. I worried for the people in the town. I wanted the men to win their wives back, to convince the IRS not to arrest them, to get the promotion they'd been scheming after; and for the women to finally meet a decent guy. The book immersed me in a different world--as cliched as it sounds, I feel like I learned something about another culture. The stories are so funny, smart, and wry, that they're worth reading again and again. And the visceral descriptions and the close perspective--the way the book subtly allows us to know what the characters are thinking and feeling--is masterful. I'm not sure what that other reviewer was talking about. I thought the characters were smart, funny, and hot. I'd be flattered to be one of them. And who knows whether the book's "fiction" or not? Isn't it all "fiction?"
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