The Russian-immigrant-story-by-the-Americanized-artist is almost its own genre in fiction now. In the case of Jewish writers, such as Ulinich, this is the second round, and she knows this, as her title refers to Malamud’s The Magic Barrel short story collection. This would be a good novel, the story, the writing witty and characters are strong, but the drawings bring character, pathos and variety to the story and show the power of graphic story telling. I was going to make comparisons to Girls, which deglamorizes Sex in the City but the New York Times has made that connection for me. What Ulinich does that goes further is dissects the immigrant experience in several ways. She came over from Russia with her parents, moving to Phoenix. One move is enough for her parents, but Lena moves on to NYC and a life in the Brooklyn world of young professionals. She has a man for each step of her journey–Alik in Moscow, Josh in Phoenix, who comes to New York with her, but leaves her, and The Orphan, and you will have to read the book (or cheat on-line, but that would be you loss) to learn about him. Instead of Malamud’s foreboding end to his story about his Finkle, Ulinich’s Finkle is going to write a novel about her experiences, and she has, and it’s worth reading.
Anya Ulinich’s website