In the summer of 2008, Jeff Parker went to Russia intending to write a book about the country's resurgence as a major global superpower under President and then Prime Minister (and now president again) Vladimir Putin, and about the emergence, for maybe the first time in history, of a Russian middle class and the sacrifices that had to be made to get there. But Russia squirms under the pressure of any attempt to pin it down. In the midst of social and financial upheaval, the more Parker sought answers, the more the questions kept coming: What was Russia? How did it work? How did people live? How could they eat kholodetz (meat jelly)?
The four years at the heart of this book focus largely on the period between 2008 and 2012 and the revealing friendship Parker made with a young barkeep and draft dodger named Igor. The book became the story of Igor, as a metaphor for Russia, in crisis. While Igor is not a model Perestroika generation man nor some kind of Putin-era everyman, he is, like The Dude in The Big Lebowski, a man for his time and place. What Parker has created is the story of Igor as a refracting mirror for the story of Russia, told with intelligence, humour and no small amount of misadventure. (Jenni_Canuck)