Book Review / The Cosmopolitans
Nadia Kalman

In the opening of Nadia Kalman's debut novel, the Greek Chorus-like Uncle Lev informs us that he's climbed to his roof for one reason only: "to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune." the Cosmopolitans begins with this allusion to Fiddler on the Roof and peaks with a Russian immigrant's horrified reaction upon viewing the actual musical. The allusions are meant to be more than just an inside joke, however; the book is a modern retelling of the classic show. Kalman's witty and nuanced prose examines the lives of Osip and Stalina Molochnik, Jewish Russian immigrants living in Stamford, CT, and their three very American daughters. Milla, the eldest, is a married, closeted lesbian; Yana, the middle child, is a feminist caricature; Katya, the youngest, is a despressed addict. While every characterin the Molochniks' world is given an equal number of vignettes, the story focuses mainly on the three sisters. The women, unlike their parents, are completely assimilated, and the conflict between tradition and grogress proves to be alternately heartbreaking and hilarious. The book explores Russian traditions, the Reform Judaism of Upper East Siders, and the Bengali customs of Yana's husband, but the desperate and relatable attempts by parents and children to fulfill their dreams cross all cultures.

Labell, Molly. "The Cosmopolitans." BUST Magazine April 2011: 99-100. Print