Next Up: What Happened to Anna K.

Now that I’ve followed Dani Shapiro’s spiritual journey from Judaism to yoga, it’s time to move on. So, I’ve moved on to a story of a completely different Jewish family.

What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn retells the classic tragedy of Anna Karenina. Instead of the Russian plot of the original, though, this one takes place in modern day New York City within a community of Russian-Jewish immigrants.

The book’s description reads:

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.

It should be an interesting read. The book has received serious accolades including winning the Goldberg Award for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers and being named one of the best fiction books of 2008 by Entertainment Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post.

I’m optimistic about this book… though I’ve felt that way about all of them so far. What can I say? I’m banking on my mom having good taste. Plus, I did enjoy the original Anna Karenina from my Russian Lit class in college… now if I could only remember the plot. (See, I really am just like my mom.)

For more information about all the praise heaped on What Happened to Anna K. visit the Irina Reyn’s website, and click here for an excerpt of the book from NPR.


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