A Terrible Country

A Novel
Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
Length: 11 hrs and 32 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (333 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times editors' choice.

Named a Best Book of 2018 by Bookforum, Nylon, Esquire, and Vulture.

"This artful and autumnal novel, published in high summer, is a gift to those who wish to receive it." (Dwight Garner, The New York Times)

"Hilarious, heartbreaking...A Terrible Country may be one of the best books you'll read this year." (Ann Levin, Associated Press)

"The funniest work of fiction I've read this year." (Christian Lorentzen, Vulture.com)

A literary triumph about Russia, family, love, and loyalty - the first novel in 10 years from a founding editor of n+1 and author of All the Sad Young Literary Men

When Andrei Kaplan’s older brother, Dima, insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. His girlfriend has stopped returning his text messages. His dissertation adviser is dubious about his job prospects. It’s the summer of 2008, and his bank account is running dangerously low. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs. So Andrei sublets his room in Brooklyn, packs up his hockey stuff, and moves into the apartment that Stalin himself had given his grandmother, a woman who has outlived her husband and most of her friends. She survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia’s violent capitalist transformation, during which she lost her beloved dacha. She welcomes Andrei into her home, even if she can’t always remember who he is.

Andrei learns to navigate Putin’s Moscow, still the city of his birth but with more expensive coffee. He looks after his elderly - but surprisingly sharp! - grandmother, finds a place to play hockey, a café to send emails, and eventually some friends, including a beautiful young activist named Yulia. Over the course of the year, his grandmother’s health declines, and his feelings of dislocation from both Russia and America deepen. Andrei knows he must reckon with his future and make choices that will determine his life and fate. When he becomes entangled with a group of leftists, Andrei’s politics and his allegiances are tested, and he is forced to come to terms with the Russian society he was born into and the American one he has enjoyed since he was a kid.

A wise, sensitive novel about Russia, exile, family, love, history, and fate, A Terrible County asks what you owe the place you were born and what it owes you. Writing with grace and humor, Keith Gessen gives us a brilliant and mature novel that is sure to mark him as one of the most talented novelists of his generation.

©2018 Keith Gessen (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Editorial Review

Come for the story, stay for the narration

The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the quote from George Saunders on the cover. If he refers to your work as "a cause for celebration," you can bet on the fact that I’m going to give it a listen. It turns out he was right (of course). There’s a lot to like about this story—not the least of which being the timeliness of the subject matter and the deadpan humor delivered by our protagonist, a wayward 33-year-old returning to his birth country to care for his grandmother. But what made this story work for me was the narration. Ari Fliakos, a favorite narrator here at Audible, brings Gessen's writing alive with his seamless transitions between American and Russian accents throughout the story. He nails every single beat in the dialogue and for that alone, this is a credit-worthy title. —Aaron S., Audible Editor

What listeners say about A Terrible Country

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  • Overall
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Interested in Russia?

I listened to it on Audible.com. It kept me up until 4 AM when I finished it. I only know (from visits to Moscow) from 1984 until the present day. This is a perfect picture of the old and new Russia told though the experiences of a young academic (I am 80 was an academic/composer). The story is compelling and sad. It is hard to believe the characters are fictional...they are so real and present. Congratulations Mr. Gessen!

12 people found this helpful

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4.39 stars

This audiobook takes awhile to get going. Ari Fliako's narration keeps the story engaging despite its slow start, and after a few hours, I really liked it. I didn't realize how much I liked it until it was almost over. Gessen paints a picture of everyday life in modern day Russia, and while this doesn't sound all that appealing, it is well worth a credit. I found myself finishing this one fairly quickly, and it was a good audiobook to begin 2019. Overall rating: 4.39 stars

6 people found this helpful

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I didn’t want it to be over

I loved listening to this book because the narrator has a warm, convincing tone and authentic sounding pronunciation. The story is sad the way real life is: we care, we do what we can but eventually accept the inevitable. The story also seemed to be based on the actual conditions of life in corrupt modern, post communist Russia.

4 people found this helpful

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Wonderful!

This book was an amazing listen. I forgot by the end that the voice wasn’t actually the character, and it was such a nuanced and multifaceted look at Russia in a time where we are so often forgetting about the country’s people.

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Don't want it to end

I'm about three-fourths through "A Terrible Country", and I don't want it to end. It's a great story from so many viewpoints-- as a tale of trying to make it in Putin's Moscow, a story of a grandmother-grandson relationship in which each needs the other, a story of coming to terms with life in a country not of one's choosing-- whether as a thirty-something academic or as an elderly woman whose whole world has changed beyond recognition. There is much practical wisdom and ironic humor as well. The narration is masterful-- the best I've heard in over 200 audio books I've listened to.

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Great performance

The story is great and narrator (Ari Fliakos) is incredible! I highly recommend this audiobook

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Hmmm

Keith Gessen has a good literary reputation that this book won’t do much to protect. It reads like a memoir, and our main character is whiny, not very clever, and rather too impatient with his 80-plus grandmother — who turns out to be the sweetest character. I wish he had worked harder to plumb her fading memory, but it doesn’t seem to occur to him, even though she’s why he has returned to Moscow. So as a fiction it’s a drag, but in the end you’re rooting for him, not in his dumb everyday struggles, which occupy most of the text, but in his powerlessness as he is swept up in the oppressive society of this “terrible country.”

6 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

Gessen is a smart guy and Ari Fliakos one of my favorite readers but this book could not get off the ground. The protagonist was a whiny, whiny guy who, despite his academic achievements, seemed clueless about how life works. A sorry portrait of some academicians who expect to be funded and granted and fellowshipped forever with no apparent exchange of equivalent value.

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Did I really just listen to this?

I have no idea why this was so higy recommended, nor why I actually listened to all of it. Boring. Plodding. And went nowhere. And then ends with a sigh.

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  • JP
  • 01-19-20

Why do i keep exchanging books? The Narrator

This book has real potential. However the narrator just turns it into a bore. Do the authors even listen to this? I feel like a broken record, Simon Prebble, Amor Towles, Lewis Arlt, Madeline Miller. They could make the worst book great.