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Vivacious thirty-seven-year-old Anna K. is comfortably married to Alex, an older, prominent businessman from her tight-knit Russian-Jewish immigrant community in Queens. But a longing for freedom is reignited in this bookish, overly romantic, and imperious woman when she meets her cousin Katia Zavurov’s boyfriend, an outsider and aspiring young writer on whom she pins her hopes for escape.
As they begin a reckless affair, Anna enters into a tailspin that alienates her from her husband, family, and entire world. In nearby Rego Park’s Bukharian-Jewish community, twenty-seven-year-old pharmacist Lev Gavrilov harbors two secret passions: French movies and the lovely Katia. Lev’s restless longing to test the boundaries of his sheltered life powerfully collides with Anna’s. But will Lev’s quest result in life’s affirmation rather than its destruction? Exploring struggles of identity, fidelity, and community, What Happened to Anna K. is a remarkable retelling of the Anna Karenina story brought vividly to life by an exciting young writer
Reyn’s formidable storytelling gift sweeps you along and keeps you turning the pages in rapt anticipation.
Literate and fun, What Happened to Anna K. is an uncommonly ambitious book and one of the year’s most amusing reads.
People magazine (review / People Pick, 4 stars)
Witty and compelling. . . recalls, contemporizes, and illuminates the classic story from which this fearless first novel takes its inspiration and its shape.
O, The Oprah Magazine
What Happened to Anna K. is a wonderful read, and the similarities and updated moments are a delight.
Los Angeles Times (also on the 2008 Summer Reading List)
Irina Reyn is a marvelous writer, with the ability to capture a character or set a scene in just a few sentences.
San Francisco Chronicle
Tolstoy himself would surely have given a nod to Reyn’s re-creation of his Karenina.
[Reyn’s] characters inhabit the interstitial place between immigration and assimilation, tradition and innovation, poised to create a postmodern culture of their own design.
Booklist (starred review)
Reyn manages to capture the moving-train moodiness of the classic while creating a fresh, addictive story that has a tragic appeal all its own.
Washington Post (Grade: A)
Delicately nuanced. . . [Reyn] makes Anna’s downward spiral not only credible but horrifically beautiful.
The talented Irina Reyn has done it [a modern version of Anna Karenina]—smartly—in her own way. . . . this melancholy paean is an intriguing update of a classic.
This witty, psychologically astute and immensely pleasurable novel is something of a miracle. By dint of some divine stubbornness, the author has folded the Tolstoyan paradigm of grandeur and regret into our pettier, shallower age, and illuminated both in the process. I know of no recent first novel that has better captured the way we live now, with as assured a sense of comedy and compassion.
Phillip Lopate, author of Waterfront and Portrait of My Body
This intricately woven and, frankly though, that what every émigré community does deserve is a few fearless, insightful, and penetrating young voices both to announce an arrival and sing an elegy. Irina Reyn is one of those voices, and her first novel is as charming as it is sad, as funny as it is revelatory.
Tom Bissell, author of God Lives in St. Petersburg and The Father of All Things
Irina Reyn’s sly wit and perfect-pitch dialogue make this modern-day retelling of Anna Karenina is a delight to read. Reyn is a cunning writer who knows her subject–Russian Jewish immigrants in New York City—inside out, and casts a skeptical glance at their habits, aspirations, and thwarted destinies. Readers should love this novel, whether or not they know the original Anna.
Lynne Sharon Schwartz, author of Ruined by Reading and Leaving Brooklyn
This bedazzling novel is more than a retelling of Anna Karenina. It’s a laser sharp portrait of the contemporary Russian-American dream, New York style. Irina Reyn’s voice is sophisticated and street smart, and once I became acquainted with her characters I could not put this novel down.
Frederick Reiken, author of The Odd Sea and The Lost Legends of New Jersey