Natasha and Other Stories

The Free World - US

A debut collection of rare skill and verve, Natasha chronicles the family saga of the Bermans in stories full of heart and consequence. In “Tapka,” six-year-old Mark’s first experiments in English bring ruin and near tragedy to the neighbors upstairs. In “Roman Berman, Massage Therapist,” Roman and Bella stake all their hopes for Roman’s business on their first dinner with a North American family. In the title story, a stark, funny anatomy of first love, we witness Mark’s sexual awakening at the hands of his fourteen-year-old cousin, a new immigrant from the New Russia. In “Minyan,” Mark and his grandfather watch as the death of an Odessan cabdriver sets off a religious controversy among the residents of a Jewish old-people’s home.

The stories in Natasha capture the immigrant experience with wit and deep sympathy. Their evocation of boyhood and youth, and the battle for selfhood in a passionately loving Jewish family, recalls the early work of Bernard Malamud, Leonard Michaels, and Philip Roth.


“Dazzling, hilarious, and hugely compassionate narratives [written with] freshness and precision ... Readers will find themselves laughing out loud, then gasping as Bezmozgis brings these fictions to the searing, startling, and perfectly pitched conclusions that remind us that, as Babel said, ‘no iron can stab the heart so powerfully as a period put in exactly in the right place.’”

— Francine Prose, People

“Scary good…Not a line or note in the book rings false.”


“Extraordinary…[Recalls] the work of Babel, Roth, Saul Bellow, and so many others. Yet Bezmozgis makes these characters, and the state of marginality itself, uniquely his. This hysterical, merciless, yet open-hearted excavation of a Jewish family in the process of assimilating gives his literary predecessors a run for their money.”

— Daniel schifrin, los angeles times book review