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Denial is more powerful than love or hate. It is a force that most people underestimate despite reading about it in newspaper headlines. How did Sandusky’s wife not know her husband was sexually abusing boys in their basement? I learned to respect denial over 30 years ago while developing the incest program for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.

Denial or pretending are activities we all succumb to. The author demonstrates this beautifully through his character; an expat lawyer who practices in Moscow. He tells himself the most ordinary story of all “I did it for love.

I prefer the phrase “the stories we tell ourselves” because rationalization almost seems too easy to excuse. Duping ourselves by believing what we want to believe…”truthiness” as Colbert coined it in 2005. We are all susceptible because someone else has done it so its ok, or just this one time or or or

The author brings Moscow to life and the city itself is another character in the story. I remember my husband & I wandered into a Russian restaurant a few years ago and then after the meal, while we were paying the waitress kept insisting we must go, it was very important to leave and to this day we’ll never know why. The book explains what might have happened to us.

The author is a Man Booker Award Finalist. This is my favorite award that often leads me to the discovery of unusual books that feed my voracious appetite.

While you follow Nick’s choices, you learn about deception, self-betrayal and how Nick loses track of who he is in the world. There are all the elements of manipulation as described in The Karpman Drama Triangle as Nick switches from Rescuer to Victim to Persecutor.

I loved that the book’s conceit for Nick telling his tale is that he wants to be totally honest with the woman he plans to marry. In that fact alone we know he has learned the terrible lessons of secrets & lies. That is exactly how an authentic relationship begins by sharing terrible truths about yourself.

The book grips you & holds your attention from the very beginning of explaining the title in Moscow slang to the end when you realize finally what terrible things have happened that can’t be undone.

The lesson wasn’t about Russia. It never is, I don’t think when a relationship ends. It isn’t your lover that you learn about. You learn about yourself.” It is acceptance of this hard truth that means the same mistakes won’t be repeated again & again like so many do in their romantic entanglements.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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