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Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngar Book Review

Reasons for Reading This Book:

I read Our Country Friends by Gary Shteynahr for the reason that I am a member of The Readheads Podcast book club. This book was chosen for the April episode. After hearing the description given about the book when it was announced I was excited to read it. This was the first book I was reading that was about a pandemic and I was interested to see how a group of friends lives' looked when they quarantined together. I went into this book really excited about it.

Content of This Book:

A group of friends quarantine together in upstate New York during the pandemic. The group of friends are staying at a Russian-born professor/writer, his Russian-born psychiatrist wife, their K-Pop obsessed daughter's country house. The group of friends is made up of a struggling Indian-American writer, a successful Korean-American app developer, a world traveler, a young essayist, and a movie star, known as The Actor. Together the group experiences 6 months of isolation due to the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. Their is friendship, romance, and betrayal. 

What I Liked About This Book:

A redeeming quality of this book is that Gary included real issues and events that occurred during the COVID-19 Pandemic into this book. He brought up and related the events of the book to events that happened during the thick of quarantine like the riots, people going viral on the internet, and everyday people making the news because everyone was sitting around on their phone giving their input on everyone else's lives'. There were moments in the book where the character's were self-reflecting. I found this to be relatable and interesting not only because a lot of self-reflection occurred as a result of the pandemic, but also because it gave space for the character's to experience growth as a result of the reflection. I do not know if I would call the actions they took as a result of these reflections as self-growth or more life changes. At times it felt like they were on the verge of breaking through a self-growth moment but ultimately never got there. 

What I Disliked About This Book:

Now let's get into what I disliked about this book. Sad to say but its a lot. For starters I became very annoyed with the writer from the beginning when he continued to repeat the same thing. The example that sticks out the most to me is the repetition of bad qualities in a person. For example, Sasha being a bad driver and being hyper focused on wanting to have the branches in the yard cleaned up. Let's stop dwelling on bad qualities. In addition to repeating a lot of the same thing, the author also rambled on and was extremely hard to follow. The author used words in other languages and either did not give the translation or enough contexts for the reader to understand what was said. The author's writing style also included lots of hypotheticals. I was constantly confused on whether what I was reading was hypothetical or real. I can see how this can be an interesting writing technique but in this book it resulted in more confusion. I had to push/force myself to keep reading this book. If I hadn't bought it and was not reading it for the book club than I would have stopped reading it. I was miserable reading this book. It got to the point where I had to start reading another book at the same time because I needed a reason to look forward to reading because this book made it feel like a chore. The plot was very dull. I understand that this is a book written about people in quarantine, but more lively things could have happened to make this book entertaining. The author also tried too hard to make mundane activities exciting. The author's descriptions tried to be poetic and detailed but it just resulted in unnecessary wording and frustration. The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking, I am not supposed to like any of the characters. Due to the fact that the author focused on their downfalls and bad qualities it was hard to find things to like about each character. There were times throughout the book where I was rooting for a character and really liked where their story was heading but then the author would write something that turned me off from them and then I was back to disliking all the characters. I could go on with more that I disliked about this book but I think I have made my case with what I have already written. 

Would I Recommend This Book?

I was actually asked multiple times while reading this book if I liked it and recommend it. I honestly said 'no do not waste your time reading this book'. It takes a lot for me to completely dislike and flat out not recommend a book. In my opinion this book is not worth reading. If I could give it zero stars on iBooks I would, sadly you have to give at least one star. If you are still on the fence about reading this book I recommend listening to The Readheads Podcast episode on it because they dive deeper into the storylines, characters, and plot. With that being said I say pass on this book and read something better and worth your time. 

Check out my book review for 2022!! 

Check out my book reviews for 2021!!

Beach Read by Emily Henry
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Check out my book reviews for 2020!!

Check out my book reviews for 2019!!


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