Book Review: A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer du Bois

I just finished The Partial History of Lost Causes on the bus this morning and all I can say is wow. That did not end how I thought it would. Or I guess it sort of did. But not really, but it was good!

The book weaves the stories of two people, an American woman named Irina and a Russian man named Aleksandr. Their lives are connected very loosely in the beginning but they end intertwined. After Irina’s father eventually succumbs to Huntington’s Disease and Irina is given the same diagnosis, she decides to track down the famous Russian chess player whom her father admired. He had written him a letter before he lost his mental faculties to disease but never received a response from Aleksandr.

When Irina cuts all ties to go to Russia to track him down she becomes involved in the tumultuous politics of Russia. It is a wild ride with an end that leaves you breathless, but at peace.

I’m not going to lie, the book was a bit hard to get into at first, but once you get used to the politics of Russia and the dark tone at the beginning, you will be sucked in. And DuBois will not leave you disappointed. [She also won an award from the National Book Foundation!]

As a teaser, here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Sometimes there are things we don’t understand even about ourselves. Sometimes we run out of the time to keep trying to unravel them, and we have to sit back and content ourselves with a shrug. But I think there are some things that we’d never understand even if we had forever to wonder. There are things that — even if we had unnumbered lifetimes to think about them – we still wouldn’t know.”

“One thing I did not like about drunkenness was that it unlocked all of one’s self-pity at once – in my case, self-pity was cast and gnawing and insatiable; it required constant combat to subdue. When I was drunk, my defenses were down, and I could easily spend an hour staring in the mirror thinking that I was too pretty to die.”

“Marriages fall apart so often, and in so many different, excruciating ways, that trying to sort out the particularities of anybody’s is like trying to unspool the proximate cause of death of a person with no immune system.”

[Sidenote: I received this book as a winner of the first reads giveaway on GoodReads. The publisher shipped me the book, but the opinions are all mine baby.]

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