“The Muddle”
by Sana Krasikov
from the August 15, 2022 issue of The New Yorker

We have had a few stories by Sana Krasikov in The New Yorker: the most recent was “Ways and Means,” back in 2018; the one prior pre-dates these posts on this blog (but not by much), coming in 2008. In 2017 she was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists, following up being named one the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” back in 2008. In 2009 she was a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for distinguished first book of fiction, and won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Fiction. All of that was for her debut collection of stories, One More Year, released in 2008. She published her debut novel, The Patriots, in 2017. Those are her only two published books, so hopefully she’s finding time to keep writing.

I’m glad we get another, particularly since I still have read only “Ways and Means.” Here is how “The Muddle” starts:

Shura was trying to reach Alyona and Oleg, first over Skype and WhatsApp, then Facebook, on which Alyona kept an account she barely used. It should not have been so hard to get hold of them. Alyona had not posted recently, but she’d checked her messages, Shura could see that. Maybe she thought Shura was being dramatic—hadn’t she always thought so? With her digital silence, Alyona was making a big show of her own calm, doubling down on her refusal to treat anything as a catastrophe. Well, goody for her, Shura thought, and shut her laptop. If Alyona wasn’t panicked, why should she be? It was day three and there were still no Russian boots in central Kyiv. There was the battle at the Hostomel airport, and a rocket had crashed into a building in Obolon, but that was not near where Alyona and Oleg lived, in the Shevchenkivskyi district. From the security of her own house in Croton-on-Hudson, Shura tried not to think about the last conversation she’d had with Alyona. It had been a rather unpleasant chat, but now there was a war on and it seemed unnecessary to be holding a grudge, one of the very few they’d had in their sixty-odd-year friendship.

On day five, a reply came over Skype. “We’re alive.” Two words in a pale-blue bubble. It should have taken the tension out of her lungs, but it only agitated Shura more. She’d expected a bit more emotiveness—did they have groceries? Were they spending nights in their building’s basement, or in the metro? We’re alive. The bare minimum.

I hope you’re all doing well, and I hope you’ll leave your thoughts below when you have read the story!

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