That Sana Krasikov’s stories are deeply mournful and regretful is self-evident from the first few pages. What takes more time to appreciate is just how complete they feel upon finishing them. Krasikov’s characters have successfully escaped the nightmare of Soviet Communism; unlike other immigrant stories, their tales aren’t of slow dissatisfaction with the falsity of the American dream. They’re already there, already feeling the pangs of unfulfilled aspirations. One More Year picks up on their lives during the longer, grimmer period where they are no longer newcomers but have yet to establish any meaningful position in their new lives.
Settled into disappointing jobs and grey domestic ruts, Krasikov’s characters wage tiny rebellions against the emptiness of their lives, refusing to give up the hope America promised. Their efforts, for the most part, are unsuccessful. Their failure to actually better their lives (and themselves) is a despairing account of the difficulties involved in taking control of one’s own life. The familiar and the stable, however dissatisfying, have their own ways of overcoming more tantalizing progress.
These stories are powerful while not overly melodramatic: they effectively capture characters’ daily plodding desperation. “In just one more year,” they seem to say without hope they already know is dashed, “life will be better. If I just wait it out.” And so they do, and so they stagnate. Krasikov’s plots aren’t limited to the immigrant experience; they poetically depict the difficulty in living one’s life as one wants to. As such, they’ll ring painfully true to those beyond the audience for Soviet émigré literature.
I’ve refrained from referencing individual stories because they all effectively speak for each other. To be less charitable, they’re redundant. The characters’ genders, ages, and personal predicaments change, but not their smoldering longing for another life. Moreover, the stories don’t illuminate a multi-faceted theme; they hammer on the same points again and again. Though beautifully written, One More Year becomes a tiring read; the latter stories even feel dull by comparison.
It’s clear that Krasikov has rare and genuine talent. Her stories are constructed naturally and powerfully. Their fluidity, grace, and emotional élan look effortless. If you pick up the book once in a while, preferably with some cold, over-steeped tea, and read a story, you’ll find One More Year incredible. But read too quickly, the collection makes us lose our ties to its characters as repetition loosens Krasikov’s narrative spell. As this is her first book, it may behoove us to be a little forgiving. If nothing else, One More Year is a signal that her first novel will be spectacular.