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Inherit the Family: Marrying into Eastern Europe stories by Vello Vikerkaar Paperback – October 5, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

If life had called on Vello Vikerkaar to be an executioner rather than the writer that he is, one could imagine him whispering funny observations from behind his hood into the ear of the condemned even as they mount the gallows: "Do you see that mole on the nose of that otherwise pretty girl who is here to watch you swing? What a shame about that, don't you think? Oh well, put your head in the noose. Nothing else to do." Because what pervades Vikerkaar's collection of essays Inherit the Family: Marrying into Eastern Europe<i/> -- a Dave Barry meets Art Buchwald chatty hatchet job on the author's adopted Estonia -- is black humor. That Vikerkaar's collection exudes excellence of the highest order is never in dispute, indeed if the author had settled himself someplace less provincial, say China for example, we would easily be reading these essays in The New Yorker. But Estonia is not China, as the author knows and is happy to point out repeatedly, Estonia is one of those newly "Western" nations that define our idea of a "backwater," the Togo or Suriname of Europe, a place so small and so politically inconsequential and surrounded by similar countries so small and inconsequential, that even State Department officials are hard pressed to properly locate it on a map. And in a sense, that's the point of Vikerkaar's collection, a wry and running commentary that continuously tells us, "Look at this ridiculous place that I live, look at all its foibles." But what Vikerkaar also cannot help from saying, between the lines, and sometimes even in them, is, "How I love this place." --New Yorker writer and novelist Tony D'Souza reviews Vello's book in Peace Corps Worldwide<i/>, Jan. 19, 2010

About the Author

Vello Vikerkaar was born in Scarberia (sometimes called Scarborough), Canada, in 1965. He now lives in Tallinn, Estonia. He has been called the ”David Sedaris of Estonia,” though he admits Sedaris may be somewhat better looking.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (October 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439256039
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439256039
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,896,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
50%
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33%
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1 star
17%
See all 6 customer reviews
The brevity of each self-contained chapter makes them perfect bathroom reading material.
Michael Collier
Anyone interested in the real, living Estonia rather than the cardboard cut out should read this book.
Hilary Bird
Nobody complains that Vello isn't fun to read; they just can't help but fight over what he says.
J. Petrone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael Collier on November 19, 2009
I'll get the one negative thing out of the way first - the cover's a bit nondescript and the title it bears is a bit misleading, if only because it might cause those unfamiliar with Vello's work to expect one of those godawful "aren't-they-amusing-and-rather-Ruritanian" travelogues written by people from the Sunday supplements who think patronising sarcasm extended for long enough eventually forms a kind of insight.

In fact Vello's book is the exact opposite of such flimsy offerings from writers who define themselves as outside observers. He hasn't swanned into Estonia for a couple of weeks, he has committed to the place 24/7. He's an outsider trying to be an insider but only making small, slow, advances. The painful rate of progress periodically leads to massive frustration which explodes in a sort of impotent, absurd exasperation.

There are plenty of comic situations that only real life could possibly throw up, including a memorable life or death struggle over a rabbit hutch and musings on the geo-economic factors that result in a covertly homosexual companion for Barbie being foisted on Eastern Europe.

Vello also debunks a few myths. If this book actually gets into the hands of locals they may finally realise that the foreigners living among them are generally much less interesting and intelligent than they give them credit for, and that foreign journalists in particular are more likely to be hopeless hacks than secret service men.

But best of all Vello exhibits the brevity and discpline in his writing that is a direct result of being a newspaper columnist rather than a mere blogger. Vello's columns are lean, funny and quick.

The brevity of each self-contained chapter makes them perfect bathroom reading material.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Petrone on March 26, 2010
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Vello Vikerkaar is one of Estonia's most controversial columnists. His insights into Estonian life both arouse praise from readers who are captivated by his honesty and raw sense of humor, as well as criticism from some for whom his tales are a little too forthcoming as they reveal an uglier side of Estonia they'd prefer was kept private. No matter which side you are on, you have to admit the style is inspiring. It is lean, up front, and spiced with smart dialog. Nobody complains that Vello isn't fun to read; they just can't help but fight over what he says.

A positive aspect of this book is that Vello moves pretty smoothly from a weekly column format to a book format. Although the columns here are largely reprinted as they first appeared, the appealing layout of the book, and perhaps even the way in which the columns, re-imagined as chapters, are ordered, made it easy for me as a reader to move from one topic to another. I easily finished half of the book in a few hours, and because this is not a novel, I could return the next day to where I had left off and not feel that I had lost any of the book's underlying rhythm.

In summary, as a reader, I recommend this book to you. So many writers get lost in the details and you can feel that you are drowning in a swamp of entertaining but ultimately useless information because, surprise, writers like to write, maybe too much. Vello's book is not a swamp. It's like the Lincoln Tunnel on a Sunday morning, you can drive right through and always be a little amazed by the experience.

My one criticism is that so many of Vello's characters are cashiers, government clerks, taxi drivers, bartenders, and other providers of services.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 21, 2009
If you've ever thought of scrapping everything, moving to Estonia, and falling in love, this is the book for you.

Would this be a wise course of action? You will meet witches, silent but dangerous relatives, and suspicious rabbits, shady business propositions.

Even if you're not planning to decamp to the former Eastern bloc, read it anyway. Nobody tells this story better than Vello!
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