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Leaving Katya


Leaving Katya

Daniel is a Russophile American who meets a mysterious young woman
named Katya in the Gorbachev-era Soviet Union. He returns to New
York City while the Soviet Union disintegrates, leaving political
chaos in its wake and tries to return to his normal life in New
York, where he jumps from temp job to temp job. But he finds
himself obsessed with Katya, unable to forget her.

Daniel telephones Katya at her home in St. Petersburg, and she
decides to get a visa to visit him in New York. Daniel wants to
move on, his psychiatrist father wants him to move beyond the
"Russian phase" of his young life, but he can't seem to do it. He
is passive, more acted upon than acting. Unsure of what to do, and
eager to keep Katya with him in the United States, Daniel marries
her. They hardly know each other.

The marriage is a painful series of cultural and personal
misunderstandings. Daniel is jealous when Katya develops strong
ties to other Russian emigrants in New York. He also feels insecure
about his inability to earn enough money to pay the bills. Katya
goes to work for a Russian dentist in Queens, but she loses her job
and doesn't tell Daniel about it. They become alienated from one
another --- Daniel feels weak, and Katya feels she is living in
abject poverty. She even pretends she's pregnant in order to
persuade Daniel to move into a larger apartment. It's a marriage of
miscommunication and cultural alienation.

Without trust and without a cultural common ground, the marriage
begins to fall apart. Katya leaves New York without Daniel and
visits Utah on a kind of religious quest. He takes a job with an
American media company that purchases TV stations in the former
Soviet Union. Returning to Katya's homeland, Daniel visits his
in-laws without her. He learns more about Katya's background,
finding her less enchanting with each revelation. Indeed, they both
may be specters of each other's imaginations. Daniel returns to New
York more confused than ever. Finally, he decides to divorce Katya.
He cannot overcome the obstacles that divide them: obstacles of
language and culture and temperament.

In the end, we're not sure who has left whom. Katya gets on a plane
and returns to Russia. Daniel, for his part, has learned about
himself and lost much of his youthful optimism. He will have to
change, will have to move beyond his "Russian phase" to forge a new
existence, but he's beset by doubts about his future.

LEAVING KATYA is an enigmatic and engrossing debut novel about a
failed relationship and one man's growing up. Ultimately, it's an
exploration of cultural rootlessness. Both Daniel and Katya are
caught between two very different worlds, finding themselves unable
to adapt to change. Greenberg doesn't give us any simple answers
about why the cross-cultural marriage failed --- he's comfortable
in the gray areas of longing and regret and self-doubt. In that
respect, the novel is as emotionally murky as life

Reviewed by Chuck Leddy on January 22, 2011

Leaving Katya
by Paul Greenberg

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399148353
  • ISBN-13: 9780399148354