July 20, 2004

Russian Bride, by Steven Alexander

This is the true story of a nice guy who loved not wisely but too well and got his heart ripped to shreds for it.

Steven Alexander, the author, is the nice guy; and Natasha, his Russian bride, is the one who ripped his heart to shreds. In a nutshell, Fifty years of age, Alexander has a successful career as a salesman but hasn't as yet found Miss Right. An elderly couple, close friends of Alexanders, live in a retirement home run by Russian emigrés, and he becomes acquainted with a number of the Russian women who work there. They are friendly, attractive, hard-working, good cooks, and they take excellent care of his friends. He begins to think that perhaps a Russian woman would suit him very well.

He goes on-line and finds a site with personal ads from Russian women who are interested in meeting Americans. And after a lot of hesitation, he sends a letter to a beautiful woman named Natasha, through a translation service. She responds. One of his friends from the retirement home visits St. Petersburg and meets Natasha; when she returns, she tells him that he should go to Russia and do the same.

And he goes, and he meets her, and eventually she comes to the United States to see if she'll like it here, and after several weeks he asks her to marry him, and she says yes. And so they are wed.

And that's when the trouble starts. I'll leave it at that, so as not to spoil Alexander's story; I'll just say that it's a painful, unpleasant tale, just chock full of important life lessons: never underestimate the power of cultural differences; judge people by their actions, not their words; marry in haste, repent at leisure; don't marry anyone expecting to change them afterwards; if your friends don't like your beloved, you should pay attention.

Alexander's not a professional writer, and it shows; his prose has a plain-spoken artlessness about it, as though he's telling you the story over a beer after a long day.

The book has two serious faults. First, the section from the beginning of the book up to the wedding is too long, and frequently dull; it's as though he's building a court case and doesn't want to exclude the smallest scrap of evidence. After the wedding it becomes quite gripping, rather like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Second, possibly due to 20-20 hindsight, he lays out the case clearly enough that the reader can see the train wreck coming almost from the first moment he meets Natasha in St. Petersburg. The impending doom kept making me cringe.

When I finished the book I put it down, and I went and found Jane and I gave her a hug, and I told her, "Jane, anything you'd like me to do, you got it."

Posted by Will Duquette at July 20, 2004 08:34 PM

Lars Walker said:

I saw a television documentary on the Russian bride business some time back which, as a pitiful middle-aged bachelor, I watched with some interest. Someone who seemed to know what she was talking about said, "There are 3 myths about Russian brides. One is that they don't care how old a man is (not true). The second is that they don't care what a man looks like (also not true). The third is that, since they come from an economically depressed country, they're less interested in money and material things than American women. That lasts just about up to their first trip to a mall."

Deb said:

One of my husband's former professors in college did this, tho I think the woman was Latvian. He saw it as a fair trade--citizenship, a free college education and being supported for the remainder of his life for housekeeping, "wifely" duties etc.

I always found him slightly pathetic and this only confirmed my suspician that his American wife dumped him for a good reason.

Will Duquette said:

In Alexander's case, he seems to genuinely have fallen in love with Natasha before he married her; and he was expecting a life-long companion. What he got was a woman who was using him to get permanent resident status in the U.S., and who wasn't interested in holding up her end of the bargain.