Books: “The Free World” by David Bezmozgis

by anneMoore on May 31, 2011

I was so taken in by the beginning of David Bezmozgis’ “The Free World,” I missed my “el” stop. Later the same day I stood on another “el” platform, gobbling up this story of immigration, and nearly missed my train home. There it stood, doors open. When had it pulled into the station? How is it I hadn’t heard its “Brown Line to Ravenswood” call? I seemed to be hermetically sealed within a book.


A Jewish family leaves the Soviet Union in 1978, bound for the United States, Canada, maybe Israel.  Alec and Polina are newlyweds. Karl and Rosa have two rambunctious young boys. The men’s parents are Samuel and Emma. None would leave Russia without the other; now in Rome, none will leave without Samuel, whose age and health holds up their application. The family’s extended time in Rome frames this novel’s story.

Its first page entrances: Alec should be helping his family with luggage but he’s distracted by two girls, American tourists.  He ” traced a line of smooth, tanned skin from heel to calf to thigh, interrupted ultimately by the frayed edge of cutoff blue jeans. …They sat on their backpacks and leaned casually against each other. Their faces were lovely and vacant. They seemed beyond train schedules and obligations.”

Oh, to be one of those girls!

Instead, Alec plays the dutiful son, the faithful husband, the good brother.  He and Polina find work, and a shared apartment of their own.

Stuck in Rome, what drives this story forward? Will playboy Alec be true to Polina? Will Rosa get her way, and steer the family to Israel? Will roommate Llyova reach the United States?

Bezmozgis takes us backwards, to the horrific pogroms of Samuel’s youth, Samuel’s valor and despair serving in the Red Army, his embrace of Communism.  We also relive Polina’s decision to leave her husband, her family and her homeland for Alec.

Rich stuff. Unfortunately, Bezmozgis brings his story to a close with a teenager who causes the family violence, death and breakups. Deux ex machina!

Still, I held this book close for more than a week. I ached for its characters. I savored its prose. This is David Bezmozgis’ first novel. I look forward to more.

14 responses to “Books: “The Free World” by David Bezmozgis”

  1. I wanted to visit and allow you to know how , very much I loved discovering your web site today. I’d personally consider it a great honor to operate at my workplace and be able to use the tips discussed on your site and also engage in visitors’ responses like this. Should a position regarding guest writer become available at your end, please let me know.
    Welcome to my blog : Back pain relief

  2. Cornelia says:

    This does look prmiosnig. I’ll keep coming back for more.

  3. I dont know what to say. This blog is fantastic. Thats not really a really huge statement, but its all I could come up with after reading this. You know so much about this subject. So much so that you made me want to learn more about it. Your blog is my stepping stone, my friend. Thanks for the heads up on this subject.
    My website is on Depression definition.

  4. Searching for this for some time now – i guess luck is more advanced than search engines 🙂

  5. Greetings, You write some excellent blogs. I examine back here often to find out should you have kept as much as date. I idea you may wish to know, as soon as I click your RSS feed it re-directs me to another website.

  6. garmin 1490t says:

    Stumbled into this website by chance but I’m sure glad I clicked on that link. You definitely answered all the questions I’ve been dying to answer for some time now. Will definitely arrive back for much more of this. Thank you so much

  7. Good Stuff, do you have a facebook profile?

  8. Solicitors says:

    your link on my blog here ,I really treasure your work , Great post.

  9. Sports Camps says:

    wonderful site, very interesting. I like it very much. I come acoss this writing by google search engine. I may visit your site often and share it. Please keep it updated. Keep on the good work

  10. very nice submit, i actually love this website, keep on it

  11. Robb says:

    That famous quote comes to mind, “Where there are no swamps there are no frogs..”.

  12. I do accept as true with all the ideas you have offered in this post. They are very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for beginners. Could you please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post and Books: “The Free World” by David Bezmozgis —!

  13. PaintZoom says:

    Your writings made me speechless. Thanks.

  14. I think this is among the most vital info for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few general things, The web site style is great, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers