Super Sad True Love Story is a novel filled with both positive and negative aspects, which induced similar emotions for me as I read through its pages. It contained a certain visionary prose and plot that I enjoyed and admired pondering; Shteyngart placed his characters amidst a world in chaos after fall of American commerce and government, in which Asia, Europe, and High Net Worth Individuals possessed complete control. I did not particularly like nor relate to the communications and retail hungry main characters and lovers, Lenny Abramov and Eunice Park, as their personalities and actions made them difficult to comprehend; but, I came to understand that these traits and actions were relevant and necessary within the context of text.
Throughout the novel the reader has a sense that he or she is viewing the dystopic future. Through the perspectives of Lenny, Eunice, and their friends and family, a series of diary entries and internet messages are read, which unveil the struggles of different people to keep living as the world around them constantly evolves. Lenny’s job helping rich individuals live forever and his own obsession with immortality serve as a backdrop and even metaphor for greater cultural, economical and political issues. With government imploding, people losing jobs, possessions, lives, one must question the point of living not only forever, but in the moment. Lenny and Eunice never seemed to analyze the existential questions too deeply, as they were always concerned with things that didn’t really matter.
Lenny, Eunice, and the other characters in the novel were so self-centered and misguided that it was easy to dislike them as a reader, and it was even more difficult to relate to their struggles. Time and again, it was hard and uncomfortable to imagine making similar decisions in these scenarios, such as Lenny and Eunice spending 11,000 yuan dollars on clothing, while their own families were in need. I often felt upset about how selfish, materialistic, immature, they acted. But, perhaps this was the point Shteyngart meant to make; humanity has these tendencies to cling to the unimportant in the most essential times and places. I can’t decide if this makes the human race disgusting or beautiful. Maybe the author couldn’t either?
In the end, Shteyngart was successfully innovative and exploratory when he penned Super Sad True Love Story. Although I didn’t fully immerse myself in the story while I read it, in retrospect I can see it’s positive aspects and unique qualities, which might draw in readers looking for something a little bit different. Who knows, in fifty years, this might be the next Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Final Star Rating: 3 out of 5