The beating heart of the tragi-comic "Super Sad True Love Story" (hereafter SSTLS in deference to word count and the novel's own penchant for acronyms) is the LS itself, a love story that really is SS. Lenny Abramov, nearly 40, falls madly in love with the 24 year-old (and deeply disaffected) Eunice Park; what follows is the two of them trying to make sense of each other across a generational divide widened exponentially in Shteyngart's creepily plausible future America. The narrative unfolds through Abramov's personal diary entries and Park's email and chat correspondence with her friends and family.
Shteyngart's dystopic New York is locked down for a visit from the head of the Chinese Central Bank, the most important person the bedraggled US has hosted in some time. With a sagging credit rating and an interminable war with Venezuela, some of the more alert US citizens are worried their country is about to become an also-ran. Most are tuned into their apparat, the ubiquitous nth-generation smart phone that has obliterated privacy (and the very concept of an attention span).
SSTLS careens through a manic, hyperconnected future of youth-obsessed shopaholics that touches on the hedonism of Huxley's "Brave New World" and authoritarianism of Orwell's "1984," but Shteyngart's love story stays grounded as the two main characters try to make the best of the worst of times.
Other selections on a similar theme: "2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America", "Absurdistan" and Jonathan Lethem's "Chronic City."
--Mark D., Mid-County Branch