Gary Shteyngart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story is a novel of extremities: hilarious, sad and distinctively intimate. The 2010 release is a startlingly bleak (and accurate) satirical look into the future of dystopian America. There is economic and political strife in New York, with China holding the power of causing a financial collapse.
Protagonist Lenny Abramov, the 39-year-old son of a Russian immigrant is struggling financially but unexpectedly falls in love with a younger Korean girl, 24 years old Eunice Park. Yet, of course, this novel is self-coined ‘super sad’ so it is not without its heartbreak. Less attractive, and old-fashioned Lenny makes a real effort to look after Eunice even after the disapproval of her parents.
Lenny has his heartbroken, Eunice betrays his trust by seeing character Joshie behind his back. Yet, luckily this heartbreak provides him with inspiration and motivation to write a book. Through this emotional turmoil, Lenny accepts the American dream isn’t the life for him as he creates a “strategy for short-term survival and then immortality following return to New York.” Lenny’s relationship with Eunice and America society is one-sided, therefore doomed before it began.
This novel is a complex web of what makes someone valuable, and more importantly, loveable. Eunice, on the surface, is a vain traitor. Yet, her idea of what love is has been skewed by her dysfunctional relationship with her family. A father that appears kind and upstanding in public yet is abusive when home. Eunice states ‘I think a part of me is falling in love with Ben, but I know it can’t happen, because another, sick part of me thinks that my dad is always going to be the only man for me.’
Moreover, Eunice’s female role model, her mother, place unrealistic pressure on her to follow in her footsteps. This toxic cocktail leaves her insecure and blind to the fact both she and Kenny are worth more than others perception.
The most startling aspect of this novel, however, is its relevance today. Young people film and photograph every part of their lives, turn their nose up at books and place their romantic interest in someone that must be both attractive and wealthy.
Undeniably, this is a sad story, but there’s no attempt to conceal that from you. Yet, there is a degree of self-love and liberation Lenny feels when he accepts himself and rejects the unhealthy aspects of his previous romance. This novel is so much about a man that deserves obtainable things such as job and relationship security yet cannot due to the essentiality being youthful and uber-rich. An apt title, as the novel explores how romance can be fickle: concealed under materialism and social opportunists.