Vodka & Salt. But no mumus

July 19, 2016 @ Liz’s with all but Karen S. (vacationing!)


  • Both thanks to Liz:  the new book club drink:  Lemoncello, Blueberry Vodka & Seltzer. Packs a punch AND a blinking light drink cup – Viv’s new favorite accessory
  • Lansdowne Resort – pool, spa, massages, facials; 45 minutes/Leesburg; ask Kitty!
  • Icelandic salt left in the far north (beyond Frederick!); Dresden St. salt (special mix!) replaces & is delightful
  • Mumu vs. Shift Dress/A-line:  mumu swallows up everything from bosoms down; shift is slimming and attractive and comfy

Image result for bear backpack 8 cases vodkaBOOK PICK:  Mary picked A Bear, A Backpack and 8 Crates of Vodka: A Memoir by Lev Golinkin because her Colorado-based book recommending buddy mentioned it a year ago and Mary LOVED it. So despite not being in the library, Mary made it happen!


  • catchy title but not really a good match for the book
  • VERY informative about the era, the transition points for families, the cultural changes & strains
  • Liz’s Dad snuck out of Russia – lots of key overlaps for her and this book that were NOT redundant to what she knew/had read
  • Jewish religion vs. ethnicity: striking esp. via the family that had zero knowledge of only a few faith-based traditions (and tried to practice them anyway)
  • VIVID scene:  the passport/final exit…papers, that horrible family who betrayed those behind them in line, burning/hiding the patent info, those (staying) who accompanied them & then returned home
  • The BARON – key role for years; luck/fate/faith???; what if they’d not crossed paths? His guilt as motivator
  • Babushkas as watchers = quite a force!
  • Lev’s mother – real respect and real buck-stops-here power in Russia vs. little traction/lack of English in the US
  • sister:  no looking back; SO ready to be in the US – facility with English quite a boon (& other personality & braininess factors, of course)

ISSUES with the BOOK

  • Lev clearly hits the wall/bottom at some point in early adulthood. Some of us wanted to know a bit more about how/why. Others were fine with that being in the next book (even if we don’t read it/there isn’t one). Did he leave it out because there IS another book or more b/c whatever the issue is/was, it’s too close to write about now?
  • What’s he doing to earn a living? Is writing enough now?
  • A bit of navel gazing (as is normal for memoirs).

OVERALL – Very good storytelling with a convincing ‘young, confused boy’ tone throughout. Good plot/timeline/pace. Nice balance of detail to settings, people, ‘important moments’ and family viewpoints.

Mary’s Dessert:  Apple Charlotte, a Russian apple cake. Yum.

Liz’s Pick for August:  10 Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley

Next Meeting:  August 31 @ Karen C’s


  1. Souls at Night by Kent Haroof
  2. Wool by Hugh Howie
  3. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys



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