Gessen’s careful telling of the lives of four Russians who saw the Soviet Union collapse and who also saw Putin take power is a thrill to read. Their are three additional characters whose position in Russian society and political influence garners attention.
Despite following the lives of 7 characters across landscapes of city to country life and occupations from psychology to politics, Gessen manages to keep the reader on a path toward making sense of what it was like for these people to live (and in some ways) contribute to the political results.
Gessen emerges less surprised than she was at the project’s outset (as a journalist she herself covered this period in Russia). With attention, the reader will too.