Fiction about life in Ukraine


As a steady stream of disturbing news continues to arrive from Ukraine, new works of fiction shine a light on how lives there have been transformed by the conflict. In this week’s podcast, reviewer Jennifer Wilson talks about two books, including the collection of stories “Lucky Breaks,” by Evgenia Belorusets, translated by Eugene Ostashevsky.

“Belorusets has been compared to Gogol in these stories,” Wilson says. “There is some kind of supernatural quality to them. I think anyone looking at these books for a play-by-play of the conflict is going to be disappointed for that reason, but I think thrilled in other ways.

Ben McGrath visits the podcast to talk about his new book, ‘Riverman: An American Odyssey,’ which tells the story of Dick Conant, a troubled and charismatic man who disappeared on a canoe trip from New York to Florida . Conant was in his 60s when McGrath met him and had spent many years searching various waterways.

“What he learned was that there really wasn’t anything he was going to discover about himself that was going to make things better, and that the secret to finding happiness was to set your sights on the ‘outside,’ says McGrath. “Rather than, in the Thoreauvian model, retreating to Walden Pond and gazing into his own reflection, he decided to go out into the world and continue to see new places and meet new people; and in doing so, keeping himself busy enough that he didn’t have to worry too much about who he was and his own problems.

Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the literary world; and Lauren Christensen and MJ Franklin talk about what they read. John Williams is the host.

Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

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