Our American Friend – Anna Pitoniak

I am totally ambivalent about choices made in this well written cold war Russia versus the United States novel, that then looks at the question of present day Russia cozying up to a Billionaire U.S. President with no morals, married to a (Russian) emigre. Sophie Morse is a young journalist, married to Ben, a lawyer. She’s so fed up with covering President Caine’s first term that she’s leaving her job to figure out her life in the face of his likely rOeelection. She previously published a biography of Raisa Gorbachev (Mikhail Gorbachev’s wife), so it is not totally odd that Lara Caine, the First Lady, engages Sophie to write her biography. It is a common belief that Lara’s father held a KGB post during the time Lara’s family of four lived in Paris. But why doesn’t the First Lady demand a nondisclosure agreement? Why is she interested in talking about her childhood/teenage years in Paris, when she has been solidly silent for years? And why is she treating her new biographer like a best friend? This is a really well told story told on separate timelines but all told through Sophie. The characters are relatable. The plot imagines what might happen when a person with a front row seat to the presidency decides to share potentially problematic secrets of her past as the daughter of a Russian spy. There’s lots of cloak and dagger to the storyline, but it is sufficiently believable to make a very entertaining read. I recommend this novel regardless of your political views, personal experience of or interest in the cold war and its thawing as the Russian government evolved in the 1980s. It certainly poses this personal question: How far would you go to do what you passionately believe is right when the impact on others is potentially serious?

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