Panic in a Suitcase Summary & Study Guide

Yelena Akhtiorskaya
This Study Guide consists of approximately 31 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Panic in a Suitcase.
This section contains 511 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Panic in a Suitcase Summary & Study Guide Description

Panic in a Suitcase Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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“Panic in a Suitcase” is a contemporary novel of family and literature by Yelena Akhtiorskaya. The novel follows the lives of the members of the Nasmertov family, natives of Odessa, Ukraine, as they live in, or visit, New York’s Brighton Beach – and as, 15 years later, young Frida travels to her family’s homeland to write a biography of her poet uncle.

When the novel begins, it is 1993, and family matriarch Esther is suffering from cancer, prompting a visit from her son, Pasha, the only family member not yet removed from Odessa to Brighton. The fall of Communism in Russia has made traveling much easier. The family implores Pasha to move to New York, but he never fully commits. He worries about leaving his home life behind, rocky as it may be. He and his wife do not get along, but he worries about his son growing up in Ukraine without him. Pasha also worries about what his new life might be like in New York.

While he is in New York, Pasha is able to enjoy American culture, the ease of American shopping, and the Russian literary scene in the city. Pasha has just published his first book, a collection of poetry which is being well-received in New York and abroad. It is the beginning of a real writing career for him.

The rest of the family, including his sister, Marina, end up wondering if they do truly want Pasha to move to New York, for that will sever all ties with the motherland forever. With Pasha remaining in Ukraine, the family knows that they have a reason to return to their homeland to visit, and knows that they still have a footing in the old world. Their assimilation in America has been made easier to a large extent by the knowledge that they do have part of the old world to hold onto. Ultimately, Esther dies of her cancer.

Fifteen years later, after Esther’s death, Frida, about 30 years of age and in medical school, decides to return to Odessa for her cousin, Sanya’s, wedding. She has long been interested in her family’s roots – both its history, and its homeland. Frida attempts to convince her family to visit Ukraine with her, but they refuse to do so for a variety of reasons, including that they simply cannot afford to go. Neverhtheless, Frida decides to go alone.

Frida stays with Sanya’s father, her uncle Pasha. In the past fifteen years, Pasha has become an immensely important literary figure in the Russian cultural scene, and he is well-admired and well-respected by many. Frida is also thrilled to begin learning about her family, its past, and its national roots, and how distinctly different life in Ukraine is from life in New York. Frida eventually comes to the decision that she is going to drop out of medical school and go into writing. Her first book will be a biography of her uncle, Pasha, playing up on the idea that he has become a literary giant.

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This section contains 511 words
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