God Lives in St. Petersburg

Bissell, Tom. God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories. New York: Pantheon Books, 2005.

Reason read: In recognition of the Decembrist uprising on December 26th, 1825.

God Lives in St. Petersburg is comprised of six short stories:

  • Death Defier – Two journalists are stuck in war torn Afghanistan and taken captive. Favorite line, “He disliked such emotional nudism” (p 21).
  • Aral – A biologist falls prey to a former KGB officer with a grudge. Best lines, “Hunger stumbled, heavy-footed, inside her stomach” (p 64).
  • Expensive Trips Nowhere – A hiker’s marriage is challenged when his wife develops a bond with their Kazakhstan guide. Best sarcastic line, “Jayne had stabilized into a teeth-clenched toleration of Douglas’s parents, Park-and-Seventieth gentry who never understood why their son had settled for “some mousy midwestern girl” (p 96).
  • The Ambassador’s Son – Alec is a spoiled ambassador’s son with a penchant for finding trouble. Favorite line, “Finally we had arrived at the shores of his unfaithfulness” (p 145).
  • God Lives in St. Petersburg – a teacher finds himself in a terrible situation with a student.
  • Animals in Our Lives – while walking around a zoo, a married couple watch their marriage disintegrate.

Bissell thrives on the theme of entrapment. Every story centers around a character’s inability to get away from an unpleasant situation. Whether it be ugly people, bad drugs or heartbreak.

Author fact: Bissell also wrote Chasing the Sea which is also on my Challenge list. I’ll be reading that in May 2047…if I am lucky.

Book trivia: Be prepared. There is a twinge of sadness to every story.

Nancy said: Nancy admitted Bissell hasn’t written a peace corps memoir but she thinks his experiences “certainly informed several of his other books” (p 176).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go from the chapter called “Peace Corps Memories” (p 175). There is nothing specifically about the Peace Corp or remembering it in the book though.



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