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A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir Audiobook

A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir

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Publisher's Summary

A compelling story of two intertwined journeys: a Jewish refugee family fleeing persecution and a young man seeking to reclaim a shattered past.

In the twilight of the Cold War, nine-year-old Lev Golinkin and his family cross the Soviet border with only ten suitcases, $600, and the vague promise of help awaiting in Vienna. Years later, Lev, now an American adult, sets out to retrace his family's long trek, locate the strangers who fought for his freedom, and in the process, gain a future by understanding his past.

Lev Golinkin's memoir is the vivid, darkly comic, and poignant story of a young boy in the confusing and often chilling final decade of the Soviet Union. It's also the story of Lev Golinkin, the American man who finally confronts his buried past by returning to Austria and Eastern Europe to track down the strangers who made his escape possible…. and thank them.

Written with biting, acerbic wit and emotional honesty in the vein of Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Safran Foer, and David Bezmozgis, Golinkin's search for personal identity set against the relentless currents of history is more than a memoir: it's a portrait of a lost era. This is a thrilling tale of escape and survival, a deeply personal look at the life of a Jewish child caught in the last gasp of the Soviet Union, and a provocative investigation into the power of hatred and the search for belonging. Lev Golinkin achieves an amazing feat - and it marks the debut of a fiercely intelligent, defiant, and unforgettable new voice.

©2014 Lev Golinkin (P)2014 Blackstone Audio

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (52 )
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  •  
    Daryl Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 04-13-15
    Daryl Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 04-13-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Touching, moving Memoir"
    Would you listen to A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir again? Why?

    Definitely! I loved both the author and the narrator! They were both engaging, poignant and humorous in the right spots. I loved it


    What did you like best about this story?

    The whole thing was a tgerrific read about identity, race, family, and perceptoin.


    Have you listened to any of Daniel Gamburg’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not. My quibble with his performance is less about his narration and more about the post-production. The narrator was very good, but switches in audio quality - even mid-sentence - became incredibly distracting to an audiophile with a good set of headphones...


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Both! I laughed out loud in some places, and cried at some moving moments.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is less about Lev's journey to find the people who assisted him as a child, and more about his experiences as a refugee, then an immigrant; as a Jew and an anti-Semite. While this was not a bad thing, the publisher's description talks more about his journey to locate the people who assisted him.
    Terrific read, either way!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    casey 05-19-15
    casey 05-19-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Enjoy... Enjoy... Enjoy..."
    If you could sum up A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir in three words, what would they be?

    Engaging, Interesting, and Funny


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir?

    I was surprised to find out how difficult it was for the author's family to leave Russia in 1989!?? I love history and read a lot of nonfiction but this was different because the author is essentially the same age as I am! It was eye-opening in a very relate-able way!


    Which character – as performed by Daniel Gamburg – was your favorite?

    I thoroughly enjoyed Daniel's narration. His slight accent was endearing and (although I am not Russian) it sounded authentic and natural! I just finished listening to a completely different audiobook about Russia and the narration made me want to scream because it was so overdone and obnoxious!


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The title of this book would be hard to beat!


    Any additional comments?

    It was so interesting to listen to Lev's impressions of his trek to America via Austria. His family was hilarious, intelligent and lovely to 'get to know.'He helped me see America through the eyes of an immigrant. I always admire and envy those from other cultures who come to America but this story helped me also see the struggles as well. This is an uplifting story about human kindness, friendships and family! I learned so much about Russia, immigration policies (or lack thereof), and what it means to be a family!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jimmy Powell, OH, United States 12-21-14
    Jimmy Powell, OH, United States 12-21-14 Member Since 2014

    I am a young-executive with a voracious appetite for great stories. I read and listen constantly, and am very proud of my book collection.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Surprisingly Warm Insights into the Cold War:"

    You will not go wrong with tender and sincere portrait of a young man struggling to be free. A slice of one family's epic struggle to freedom against the backdrop of the last gasps of the Cold War is both entertaining and deserving of respect and admiration.

    A brilliant book, written with the simplicity and honesty of one not accustomed to excess! This book provides a remarkable history into one Russian family as they flee the oppression of the Soviet System as it is collapsing under Glasnost and Perestroika. At once both sad and uplifting, this book humanized for me the "enemy" from my Cold Warrior childhood in the U.S.A. I used to sit on the curb and wonder if the airplanes flying above were preparing to drop atomic weapons, and yet in truth the enemy was no enemy at all. This book pulls back the curtain on the human condition in the Soviet Union at the end of this "evil empire" and illuminates family and sacrifice are universal human conditions. We are all struggling to be our best selves and shed the things that hold us back!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carole Lakewood, CO, United States 11-12-16
    Carole Lakewood, CO, United States 11-12-16
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    "Exquisite memoir"

    This beautifully written memoir by a young Jewish refugee from Soviet Russia is visceral, poignant, insightful, wise and ultimately full of gratitude. I'd recommend it especially for anyone interested in the refugee/immigrant experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JillOakPark 09-18-15
    JillOakPark 09-18-15 Member Since 2011
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    "Loved this book - timely topic, great storytelling"

    I was nervous to read this book - seemed like it would be good for me but maybe not easy to get through. Certainly there are some parts that are tough to hear but Golinkin somehow managed to include enough good humor and insight to tell a story that is a pleasure to read despite his harrowing circumstances growing up. With a different refugee crisis underway, I really appreciated a personal story of this family's decision to flee their town, and the author's journey traveling to the U.S. and coming to terms with his identity.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Lankaranian 06-21-15
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    "Very Insightful!"

    This book provides the reader with a very revealing and personal account of life in the Soviet Union as experienced through the eyes of a Jewish family. The author vividly recounts the isolation and humiliation he experienced daily as a child that manifested itself into a feeling of self loathing well into his adulthood. It is a must read for anyone interested in peering into the psyche of the Eastern European Jews.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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