Half-Hearted, Unfinished Book Review: Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart

Last week, I posted about my troubles getting through Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart's most recent novel. This week, I decided to give up on it.

It's not that it was terrible. It wasn't. The premise was actually fascinating--in a very near future where privacy essentially does not exist, a middle-aged man falls hard--and fast--for a twenty-something girl with "a minor in Assertiveness." Both characters are well-developed: Lenny proves to be a somewhat stereotypical man on the brink of turning forty, pondering his limited lifespan and somewhat pathetic in his attempts to define himself, and Eunice is also a somewhat stereotypical woman in her early twenties, tremendously flip about everything, speaking in acronyms, and code, and LIKE-OMFG-LMFAO-type slang. Which, of course, Lenny does not always understand.

Even more than the characters, though, Shteyngart's imagined future is pitch-perfect, hitting chords left and right in our age of Twitter and Facebook and the constantly changing privacy policies of nearly all of the internet giants-that-be. What would it be like, it makes you wonder, to live in a world where everything was public information? And is that really such a far leap from where we are now?

The problem, I think, boiled down to the fact that despite the well-written characters, and the amazingly-crafted future, I just simply could not find it in me to care what happened. I didn't care about Lenny. I didn't care about Eunice. I didn't care about the fate of the crumbling America, or the philosophical ponderings I suppose I was meant to care about as I read the novel.

And so I stopped reading it. Perhaps I'm missing something in what I read that would have fit all the pieces together, or perhaps I'm missing out by not persevering. After all, Super Sad True Love Story did receive rave reviews from the likes of The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Guardian (though it also had a lot of lukewarm coverage from book bloggers by the looks of it--I've rarely seen so many reviews with so many question marks). The long and short of it is that I have enough to read as it is; I just couldn't find it in me to stick with it.

If you've read it, tell me -- what am I missing? What did you think? And another question - should I check out Shteyngart's previous novels (The Russian Debutante's Handbook and/or Absurdistan)?


Thoughts from other bookworms:
The New Dork Review of Books
The Reading Ape
A Librarian's Life in Books
The Broke and the Bookish


Super Sad True Love Story | Gary Shteyngart | Hardcover | July 2010 | Buy from an independent near you


  1. No second guessing from me since I agree. Even while I felt he was a clever writer, in the end I didn't care about the characters and couldn't finish it either. It officially joins a list of books I won't likely try to read again.

    1. At least I wasn't alone. I really just felt like I was missing something as I read it.

  2. Oh I hate when that happens! But I think deciding not to finish is always the right decision. This book does sound fascinating so I'm going to give it a try and maybe I'll care more about it. If not, then on to better books! :)


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