What Hap­pened to Anna K

  • Review
By – November 14, 2011

What Hap­pened to Anna K is a reimag­in­ing of Anna Karen­i­na set in the Russ­ian and Bukhar­i­an immi­grant enclaves of Rego Park in Queens, New York. Iri­na Reyn’s Anna feels trapped with­in a mar­riage and soci­ety and yearns to break free. A coun­ter­point sto­ry is that of her cousin, Katya, who wants only the secu­ri­ty of com­mit­ment and mar­riage. Events unfold, tragedy ensues, life goes on.

It is always a treat to read a nov­el based on an old favorite. Such nov­els have become increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar over the past sev­er­al years, be they sequels, pre­quels, interquels, or sto­ries told from dif­fer­ing points of view. The new work often prompts the read­er to revis­it the orig­i­nal as an old friend. Many read­ers of Reyn’s Anna will wish to reread Anna Karen­i­na, but they will find that Reyn is no mod­ern-day Tol­stoy. This is not a sweep­ing dra­mat­ic can­vas; it has a more per­son­al, inti­mate feel. Yet Tolstoy’s theme of yearn­ing for free­dom is echoed here and the shad­ow of tragedy has the same feel of inevitabil­i­ty. Reyn clear­ly knows her com­mu­ni­ty well and trans­mits a nuanced feel­ing for the char­ac­ters who inhab­it her world, yet the uni­ver­sal push/​pull of security/​freedom tran­scends the spe­cif­ic enclave and res­onates for all.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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