Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Seventh Wife

Anton Sebich, the eternally hopeful hero, had seven wives, sells divorce insurance and moderates the calamity of modern civilization on his own radio show.

In chatty, fast-paced prose, this lively picaresque novel captures the bewilderment and naive exuberance of newcomers to America's shores. Anton Sebich, a middle-aged insurance agent turned radio-show host, whose six former wives and 10 children have left him bankrupt, receives a distress call from his first wife. Their oldest child has mysteriously fled the U.S. and is somewhere within the former Soviet Union. Aided by his former father-in-law, a cat-food magnate, Anton sets off on a yacht across the high seas to bring back his daughter. High-spirited run-ins with sea pirates and German terrorists are punctuated by Anton's reminiscences about his disastrous marriages. Ever an optimist, Anton immediately hooks up with Melada, a young Russian woman who joins him and his crew as a translator. As Anton plunges into Russian society with Melada at his side, the author pulls out all the stops, slyly satirizing the whole of the Russian literary canon. Continuing the search for his daughter, Anton progresses ever deeper into the Russian countryside--and falls ever deeper in love with Melada. Moscovit's broad humor keenly depicts people who straddle two cultures, and the inevitable mix-ups that occur when those cultures collide. Moscovit (a pseudonym) was a professor of thermodynamics in Leningrad; this novel, the third of his works to be translated into English, was a bestseller in Russia.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Anton Sebich is a broken man, but when his daughter disappears, he engineers an ocean-crossing rescue effort beleaguered by would-be kidnappers, hijackers, pirates, bureaucrats, and his former wives. Moscovit (the samizdat pseudonym used by Igor Yefimov) uses his zany cast of characters, the tragicomic journey from America to Russia, and the interspersed texts of Anton's radio broadcasts to lampoon multiple cultures and dozens of lifestyles. Nothing escapes Moscovit's capacity for skewering the ridiculous. This talented Russian's latest work is a comedy, mystery, adventure, romance, and satire rolled into one and peppered with relentless sly social commentary reminiscent of Bulgakov at his best. His highly entertaining and intelligent novel will appeal to all audiences but especially to those who find modern culture to be a suitable target for laughter. Highly recommended.
- Ruth M. Ross, Olympic Coll. Lib., Bremerton, Wash.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

This novel is ambitious only in length, as Moscovit (The Judgment Day Archives, not reviewed) fails to deliver much in the way of character, compelling storylines, or a real reason to keep reading. It follows the wanderings and travails of Anton, an angst-ridden man who has been around the marriage-and-family block a few too many times. As he reminisces about his many exes and tries to reconstruct some sense of who he has been in his life, he works toward something of a resolution with his restless heart. His many children, for whom he has been at best an absent father, are for him a great unresolved collection of relationships that could have been or legacies that have not worked out. For most of the story, Anton is caught up in a quest for something beyond self-pity and a ruinous lifestyle. To him, his former spouses and children are mostly nameless, with ``Wife -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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