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Red Weather: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Pauls Toutonghi
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $9.99
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

The setting is Milwaukee, Wisconsin—if not America’s heart, then at least its liver—home to an array of breweries and abandoned factories and down-on-their-luck Eastern European immigrants. The year is 1989.

Revolutions are sweeping through the nations of the Eastern Bloc. Communism is unraveling. And nobody feels this unraveling more piquantly than Yuri Balodis—a fifteen-year-old first-generation American living with his Latvian-immigrant parents in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.

It’s a turbulent time. And when Yuri falls in love with Hannah Graham—the daring daughter of a prominent local socialist—chaos ensues. Within weeks, Yuri is ensnared by both Hannah and socialism. He joins the staff of the Socialist Worker. He starts quoting Lenin and Marx indiscriminately.

His parents, of course, are horrified and deeply saddened. They try to educate him, to show him why, in their opinion, communism has ruined so many lives. But Yuri is stubborn. And his ideological betrayal will have more serious consequences than breaking his parents’ hearts.

Red Weather is by turns funny and bittersweet, tinged with a rueful comic sense that will instantly remind you of the absurd complications of love. Pauls Toutonghi’s stunning debut novel is at once reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Toutonghi's tragicomic debut novel paints a loving, cockeyed picture of the Soviet immigrant experience in the twilight of the Cold War. Yuri Balodis, a painfully thin, bookish 15-year-old living in Milwaukee with his parents, narrates with adolescent angst tempered by retrospective wisdom. Proud to have escaped Soviet Latvia under trying circumstances, Yuri's mother and father (who works as a janitor) have embraced America, choosing to speak only their own idiosyncratic brand of English and decorating their small apartment with glossy magazine ads. In 1989, Yuri watches the fall of the Berlin Wall on television, plays host to Latvian relatives who may or may not be seeking asylum, and dabbles in socialism, an interest derived mostly from his passion for wild-haired Hannah Graham, a Socialist Worker vendor. Yuri's patriotic parents, particularly his hard-drinking father, Rudolfi, are outraged by Yuri's espousal of Marxist rhetoric, a blatant form of teenage rebellion. Oblivious to everything except his own obsession with Hannah, Yuri fails to recognize his father's love, and the implications of his own recklessness, until it's almost too late. Toutonghi's carefully observed character details, evocation of working-class Milwaukee and tales of the old country effectively walk the line between realism and absurdity. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It's 1989 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Yuri Balodis, the shy son of Latvian immigrants, leads a quiet existence, experiencing the world through books. But a desire to do something, anything--and a chance encounter with pretty student Hannah Graham--leads him to join a newspaper-selling socialist group led by Hannah's father. The Grahams are privileged people for whom socialism is a theory. Yuri's parents fled Latvia in a shipping container full of hogs after suffering under communism. Yuri isn't sure what he believes in. But in a few short weeks, he falls in love, meets long-lost family, and commits an impulsive act that will have echoing repercussions, learning a lot in the process. Pushcart Prize winner Toutonghi (himself the Latvian-Egyptian son of immigrants) writes with an assured hand and a quirky, wry sense of humor. Yuri and his small family--especially Yuri's alcoholic, country-and-western-loving father--are memorable and lovingly drawn. The ending goes on too long, and a late, surprising sexual awakening feels unnecessary, but this is a first novel of uncommon poise and power. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 348 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 030733676X
  • Publisher: Crown (February 27, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000OI0GA2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #950,665 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overcast Weather September 6, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
We Latvians are a small nation, but oh, we are a proud people! We are a nation beaten and battered by many wars over many hundreds, even thousands of years, but our culture and life sense still thrive: the Latvian language is one of the oldest in existence today, still actively used. Perhaps that is our greatest source of pride, then: we are survivors.

When Pauls Toutonghi's new novel, Red Weather, came upon the literary scene, I was greatly pleased. I've been an avid reader in both languages - Latvian and English - since earliest childhood, but however many good books I read about the war and later experiences of Latvians immigrating to other countries and cultures, it was rare to come across a worthy tome in English. History books, yes, but far more rare, a good attention-grabbing novel that I could proudly share with non-Latvian friends.

Now, here's Pauls. With one Latvian parent, it is my understanding he has grown up in the Milwaukee area, active in the Latvian community and, having visited Latvia, is well-acquainted, one would suppose, with the culture and something of the nation's history. For these reasons, I read the novel with high expectation and excitement.

Pauls' writing abilities do not disappoint. Still quite young, he has already accrued an impressive publishing history, and has won the Pushcart Prize. His descriptions are lively, his storyline pulls us along, his sense of humor is intact.

And yet. The further I read, the more I realized, no, this was not going to be the book that I would pass on to Latvians I know, or to non-Latvians I'd like to invite a little more intimately into my multi-cultural world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A view of red Milwaukee December 12, 2007
Two unusual elements take front and center stage in this novel: Latvian culture and the city of Milwaukee, both woefully underrepresented in todays literature. Red Weather is a welcome treat and introduction to both.

What perhaps makes it all the more unusual is that our first-generation Latvian-American teenage hero, Yuri, actually desires to learn of his parents' language and culture. It is they that put the kibosh on this,a not-so-unusual phenom among new emigres. Yuri finds himself attracted to an odd-shaped Latvian book his parents had (which proves to be a major identifier for him later on in the story). He feels that "My parents had kept me from participating in my cultural identity as much as possible" yet "In some ways I envied my Dad's separation from the larger part of American life. He lived within certain was simple." Furthermore, Uncle Ivan remarks that young Rigans today want to speak Latvian, learn Latvian customs and fly the Latvian flag.

I can so readily identify with Yuri when he compares himself to his cousin Eriks and feels "culturally impoverished."

The Wallace Stevens poems at the beginning of each new phase in the story add nothing, though, to the content of the book.

I loved to see Yuri's father's reaction to the pampered, surreal, safe, suburban "communists" at Marquette et about reality meeting idealism! Wish there'd been more discussion between Hannah and Erik's disagreement on socialism!

Riga earns frequent mention in RW, another Westernly neglected city.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets the da Vinci Code November 28, 2006
By D. Noel
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I picked up this novel after reading favorable reviews. I truly enjoyed the first 50 pages of this book. Having grown up in the Milwaukee area in the 1980's, I recognized my home town in the novel. I enjoyed the characters in Yuri's life such as his parents and his cousins. He describes his family life with such humorous honesty. I really enjoyed the way he met Hannah and became seduced by her socialist perspective. I was looking forward to getting to know her better. I thought he had the makings of a great plot as Hannah's socialist ideals would conflict with his parents' experience of the U.S.S.R.

And then ...

I thought this novel got lost in a bunch of plot twists designed to entertain the reader more accustomed to the standard movie thriller. Towards the end of the book the action is fast and furious. All this action obscures the richness of the characters. Hannah, for example, never emerges beyond the Communist caricature. We never learn why she is attending an inner city high school even though she lives in a posh suburb. So many plot turns prevent us from learning much about Yuri's family - such as his mother, his uncle, his uncle's wife and his cousin.

I put down this novel worrying about how the success of the da Vinci code is influencing the new generation of American writers. Must every novel have a simple screen play that will appeal to some Hollywood producer? Must every rich story include car chases, car crashes and people jumping off balconies? I get the sense the Pauls Toutonghi could have written a much better book, but he perceives the need to "dumb-down" his story for his audience.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and touching book June 25, 2006
I am excited to share my opinion about this new novel, and new writer who I discovered a few weeks ago, after hearing his novel reviewed on NPR.

I loved this book. The narration was touching and light-hearted. Maybe not as funny as I would have liked in places, but it definitely kept me hooked and moving forward.

I loved the scenes with the father. Red Weather has truly captured -- at least in my opinion -- the essence of the father-son relationship. It was a book that reminded me of my own dad (recently passed away). I could hear his voice in the father's voice, and that was tremendously moving to me.

When I logged on, I noticed that one reviewer, in particular, took objection to a couple things here and there in the book. It seems funny to me to take objection to small factual mistakes in a novel; everything in a novel is subjective, right? Did these characters actually exist? Of course not. Why would you imagine that everything they say would be perfectly accurate? It's the heart of the details that matter!

And Toutonghi's attention to detail is wonderful. I did a little bit of simple research and noticed that he got his MFA in poetry -- not fiction -- from Cornell University. So: his work is hardly the derivative product of an MFA program.

A funny book! I really loved it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Another strong effort from Toutonghi
I bought this because I enjoyed the author's book Evel Knievel Days. I connected a little more to Evel Kneivel Days, but in so many ways this is a father/son book and a good one. Read more
Published 5 months ago by upontheroof
5.0 out of 5 stars DELICIOUS!
Wow! Each paragraph brings unexpected & unforced giggles that seem to just creep up! Paul's insight into people, their motivations, aspirations & daring is refreshing, to say the... Read more
Published on November 8, 2006 by LatFan
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!! What a wonderful book
I loved this book. It took me longer than usual to read it, about two weeks. I just wanted to savour it and not end it. Read more
Published on October 11, 2006 by :-)
4.0 out of 5 stars Serendipitous find
I found this novel while browsing in a book store and am so glad that I ran across it. It is a gem of a book--a delightful look at the immigrant experience and father/son... Read more
Published on September 9, 2006 by Karen E. Fauls-traynor
2.0 out of 5 stars OK if you like MFA fiction
Despite some pretty good writing from time to time and some excellent scenes, this book was disappointing. Read more
Published on June 24, 2006 by David S. Lott
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb, Surprising, Entertaining, Moving
(Pauls read at my reading series on June 2, 2006. This is from my introduction)

"Red Weather" takes a simple idea--the working and actions of an adolescent--and... Read more
Published on June 14, 2006 by Glenn Raucher
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect Father's Day Gift!
I get coffee everyday from a bookstore here in Milwaukee. It's not often that you find a book that's 'about' Milwaukee, so imagine my surprise when I walked into my store and saw... Read more
Published on June 5, 2006 by Laura Davidson
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning, funny, moving book
I'd read one of Toutonghi's short stories in Zoetrope: All-Story and loved it. I bought this book after reading a review in the Seattle Times. What an incredible novel! Read more
Published on May 31, 2006 by John Cambulen
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great
The novel is fairly slow-moving and the various threads fall apart by the end of the book. I think the author is better with shorter fiction as in his first book LIVE CARGO. Read more
Published on May 30, 2006 by CentralNY Reader
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More About the Author

Pauls Toutonghi's second novel, Evel Knievel Days, will be published by Random House in Summer 2012.

His first -- Red Weather -- was published by Random House in 2006. He has won a Pushcart Prize, been awarded a Fulbright Grant, and has traveled for the U.S. State Department. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Five Chapters, GRANTA, Zoetrope, One Story, The Boston Review, Glimmer Train, and numerous other periodicals. He teaches at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.


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