Between Worlds

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The linked stories of David Bezmozgis' acclaimed debut collection, Natasha (2004), measured a young Latvian Jew's life spent as a foreigner in a foreign land--North America--and sketched an ever widening gulf between history and tradition and the immigrant's Western experience. His perceptive and engaging first novel, The Free World, is anchored a few years earlier than Natasha, in 1978, and records the Krasnansky family's existence in transit--no longer in the Soviet Union but not yet at its final destination. Rome is the family's waiting room, and as its two generations argue over where in the West to settle, narrative excursions into the past--the father's dedicated communism, the younger son's sportive philanderings, his wife's aggrieved independence--tug against the promise of the future. In this struggle, Bezmozgis creates a bubble of time, both auspicious and crippling, in which "the moment remains the moment. And that which comes later, comes later."