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Open Mic Night in Moscow: And Other Stories from My Search for Black Markets, Soviet Architecture, and Emotionally Unavailable Russian Men

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Open Mic Night in Moscow: And Other Stories from My Search for Black Markets, Soviet Architecture, and Emotionally Unavailable Russian Men. The raucous and surprisingly poignant story of a young, Russia-obsessed American writer and comedian who embarked on a solo tour of the former Soviet Republics, never imagining that it would involve kidnappers, garbage bags of money, an Open Mic Night in Moscow: And Other Stories from My Search for Black Markets, Soviet Architecture, and Emotionally Unavailable Russian Men. The raucous and surprisingly poignant story of a young, Russia-obsessed American writer and comedian who embarked on a solo tour of the former Soviet Republics, never imagining that it would involve kidnappers, garbage bags of money, and encounters with the weird and wonderful from Mongolia to Tajikistan. Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Siberia are not the typical tourist destinations of a twenty-something, nor the places one usually goes to eat, pray, and/or love. But the mix of imperial Russian opulence and Soviet decay, and the allure of emotionally unavailable Russian men proved strangely irresistible to comedian Audrey Murray. At age twenty-eight, while her friends were settling into corporate jobs and serious relationships, Audrey was on a one-way flight to Kazakhstan, the first leg of a nine-month solo voyage through the former USSR. A blend of memoir and offbeat travel guide (black markets in Uzbekistan: 5 stars; getting kidnapped in Turkmenistan: 1 star) this thoughtful, hilarious catalog of a young comedian’s adventures is also a diary of her emotional discoveries about home, love, patriotism, loneliness, and independence. Sometimes surprising, often disconcerting, and always entertaining, Open Mic Night in Moscow will inspire you to take the leap and embark on your own journey into the unknown. And, if you want to visit Chernobyl by way of an insane-asylum-themed bar in Kiev, Audrey can assure you that there’s no other guidebook out there. (She’s looked.)


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Open Mic Night in Moscow: And Other Stories from My Search for Black Markets, Soviet Architecture, and Emotionally Unavailable Russian Men. The raucous and surprisingly poignant story of a young, Russia-obsessed American writer and comedian who embarked on a solo tour of the former Soviet Republics, never imagining that it would involve kidnappers, garbage bags of money, an Open Mic Night in Moscow: And Other Stories from My Search for Black Markets, Soviet Architecture, and Emotionally Unavailable Russian Men. The raucous and surprisingly poignant story of a young, Russia-obsessed American writer and comedian who embarked on a solo tour of the former Soviet Republics, never imagining that it would involve kidnappers, garbage bags of money, and encounters with the weird and wonderful from Mongolia to Tajikistan. Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Siberia are not the typical tourist destinations of a twenty-something, nor the places one usually goes to eat, pray, and/or love. But the mix of imperial Russian opulence and Soviet decay, and the allure of emotionally unavailable Russian men proved strangely irresistible to comedian Audrey Murray. At age twenty-eight, while her friends were settling into corporate jobs and serious relationships, Audrey was on a one-way flight to Kazakhstan, the first leg of a nine-month solo voyage through the former USSR. A blend of memoir and offbeat travel guide (black markets in Uzbekistan: 5 stars; getting kidnapped in Turkmenistan: 1 star) this thoughtful, hilarious catalog of a young comedian’s adventures is also a diary of her emotional discoveries about home, love, patriotism, loneliness, and independence. Sometimes surprising, often disconcerting, and always entertaining, Open Mic Night in Moscow will inspire you to take the leap and embark on your own journey into the unknown. And, if you want to visit Chernobyl by way of an insane-asylum-themed bar in Kiev, Audrey can assure you that there’s no other guidebook out there. (She’s looked.)

30 review for Open Mic Night in Moscow: And Other Stories from My Search for Black Markets, Soviet Architecture, and Emotionally Unavailable Russian Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Murray

    I absolutely loved writing this book. (Have not yet had a chance to read it.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Expectation: Written by a comedian, so I should laugh at least a little. Reality: Not funny to me at all. Maybe others would find it funny but it just totally fell flat on me. Oh well. Expectation: Travel story of someone around my age and similar upbringing. I should be able to relate to the author pretty well. Reality: The author is emotionally immature and entitled. There's far too much obsessing about past relationships and very little growth or progress on her part despite all the countries vi Expectation: Written by a comedian, so I should laugh at least a little. Reality: Not funny to me at all. Maybe others would find it funny but it just totally fell flat on me. Oh well. Expectation: Travel story of someone around my age and similar upbringing. I should be able to relate to the author pretty well. Reality: The author is emotionally immature and entitled. There's far too much obsessing about past relationships and very little growth or progress on her part despite all the countries visited and people met. Expectation: The author grew up in NY, has lived abroad, and traveled widely. She must be very cosmopolitan and open minded towards other ways of life. Reality: She travels throughout poor countries taking advantage of people and being annoyed with their way of life, judging them for being proud of where they come from and not understanding that when raised in a different country/way of life that different people will have different points of view that are not ridiculous. Expectation: Interesting stories from traveling the former USSR. Reality: They're in there once you wade through the BS and fight the contempt you have for the author. Probably would have been less time spent on stories trying to get visas in foreign embassies if the author had actually done adequate planning for her trip. Maybe I'm not the audience for this book, but I'd say you are better off skipping it unless you want the whiny young adult version of eat, pray, love except in central Asia and it's more like run from your problems, mock religion and tradition, be selfish. Two stars for good writing/voice and structure/organization.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ciaran Monaghan

    I picked this as I was looking for an audiobook and the title piqued my interest as a Russophile. Then, as the trip she was taking sounded like something I wanted to do myself, I decided to give it a go. It is similar to other off-the-beaten track travelogues where the narrator is under-prepared and gets in to all kinds of scrapes and it gave me all kinds of grand ideas for my own trip. However, it is (or feels) extremely long and it has taken me a really long time to get through which I wasn't I picked this as I was looking for an audiobook and the title piqued my interest as a Russophile. Then, as the trip she was taking sounded like something I wanted to do myself, I decided to give it a go. It is similar to other off-the-beaten track travelogues where the narrator is under-prepared and gets in to all kinds of scrapes and it gave me all kinds of grand ideas for my own trip. However, it is (or feels) extremely long and it has taken me a really long time to get through which I wasn't expecting for a light-hearted travel book. I would really only recommend it if you have a pretty strong interest in Russia and the former Soviet republics.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra Butterworth

    The writing was good and the humor was alright. I actually enjoyed the author’s tone and voice but I just kept getting so irate at the whole thing. Who goes so unprepared to Eastern Europe and then expects it to all just work out?!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    When was the last time a copy right page made you laugh? Never before? Same here, until I read this book and I laughed all the way through while learning all about the former Soviet Union. One of the best books I’ve read in 2018.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Masha

    I genuinely really liked this book. Full of adventure, love for Russia (and CIS), Russian language, Russian men (ahem). Funny, but not overly sarcastic. And of course it is great to see a woman travelling alone perspective that we don't see nearly enough in books and movies. I genuinely really liked this book. Full of adventure, love for Russia (and CIS), Russian language, Russian men (ahem). Funny, but not overly sarcastic. And of course it is great to see a woman travelling alone perspective that we don't see nearly enough in books and movies.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alla S.

    “Open Mic Night in Moscow” is a chronicle of stand-up comedian’s Audrey Murray’s trip to the former Soviet republics (inspired by her Russian ex-boyfriends). Most of the book is spent on countries like Uzbekistan/Kazhakastan/Tajikistan/Turkeministan (the more Asian parts of the former sprawling Soviet Union land mass), while the last third finishes off with the European republics (Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics, and lastly Russia). Murray accompanies her travelogue with historical backgrounds abou “Open Mic Night in Moscow” is a chronicle of stand-up comedian’s Audrey Murray’s trip to the former Soviet republics (inspired by her Russian ex-boyfriends). Most of the book is spent on countries like Uzbekistan/Kazhakastan/Tajikistan/Turkeministan (the more Asian parts of the former sprawling Soviet Union land mass), while the last third finishes off with the European republics (Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics, and lastly Russia). Murray accompanies her travelogue with historical backgrounds about each country, to provide the reader with a fuller picture. The history is interspersed with the author’s travel adventures: almost getting kidnapped, attending weddings, running out of cash, contacting the useless embassy to come to her rescue, staying with random locals, exploring her ex-boyfriend’s place of birth, etc. The writing is simultaneously witty and informative, juxta positioning the author’s current experience being there with that of the Soviet past, from an outsider’s perspective. There’s also a lot fish-out-of-water type of moments. Overall, an entertaining yet informative travelogue.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cristin

    This book was hard to rate because of many reasons. The first was that this author has a pretty good writing style, but I often found myself frustrated beyond belief with the content. She traveled to these places with little to no information on them (besides the fact that they are authoritarian states that have terrible human rights records) and expects everything to be hunky dory. For the first part of the book, it didn't seem like any time had passed before we were getting another boarder cro This book was hard to rate because of many reasons. The first was that this author has a pretty good writing style, but I often found myself frustrated beyond belief with the content. She traveled to these places with little to no information on them (besides the fact that they are authoritarian states that have terrible human rights records) and expects everything to be hunky dory. For the first part of the book, it didn't seem like any time had passed before we were getting another boarder crossing scene and on to the next country (check mark). I did love the historical tidbits she would give about what happened when the USSR folded in, but it seemed like her research was done after the fact. It wasn't until after she got to Uzbekistan, that I felt like I was reading more of a travel journal rather than a checklist with some funnny/frustrating stories thrown in. From then on, it took me a matter of hours to finish rather than the days it took me before that. So why 3 stars rather than 2? It's because I did end up enjoying parts of the book. I also received information about countries that I knew existed, but knew very little about. *ARC received in exchange for honest review*

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I didn't hate this, but I didn't really find it humorous. The jokes largely fall flat. But you're able to learn more about some countries that are, shall we say, definitely off the beaten path. Too much talk about the Belarusian ex boyfriend. I do relate to some of the struggles about trying to decide what to do with your life though. Reading this spiked by anxiety several times. I don't know if I can keep reading these memoirs about women traveling alone. Good for them, but there were so many p I didn't hate this, but I didn't really find it humorous. The jokes largely fall flat. But you're able to learn more about some countries that are, shall we say, definitely off the beaten path. Too much talk about the Belarusian ex boyfriend. I do relate to some of the struggles about trying to decide what to do with your life though. Reading this spiked by anxiety several times. I don't know if I can keep reading these memoirs about women traveling alone. Good for them, but there were so many points in this story I was afraid the author was going to get robbed, etc.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Wendi Gu

    If you like laughing, if you like deadpan wit, if you are curious about Russia and wonder about the land that made Putin possible, PLEASE READ THIS! Punched through with fun, this book. You won't regret picking it up. If you like laughing, if you like deadpan wit, if you are curious about Russia and wonder about the land that made Putin possible, PLEASE READ THIS! Punched through with fun, this book. You won't regret picking it up.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Clearly I wasn't her audience: the humor fell flat. I skimmed for her descriptions of Russia and the former USSR, but beyond that... YMMV. ARC provided by publisher. Clearly I wasn't her audience: the humor fell flat. I skimmed for her descriptions of Russia and the former USSR, but beyond that... YMMV. ARC provided by publisher.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cindy H.

    I enjoyed this memoir/ travelogue very much and managed to gain some knowledge of the former Soviet Union along the way. Audrey Murray is delightful and full of humor which makes her the perfect travel companion. There were a few times I wanted to shake her for making really stupid decisions, but that’s totally the mom/ worrier/ pessimist in me. Highly recommend. I did a combination of reading & audio listening and both formats were engaging.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tricia.Mullen.London

    I LOVED this book! It made me laugh. I also learned a lot about the "stan" countries. (I have to confess that I used a map to keep track of the places.) The author REALLY knows how to tell a good story! Highly recommended. I LOVED this book! It made me laugh. I also learned a lot about the "stan" countries. (I have to confess that I used a map to keep track of the places.) The author REALLY knows how to tell a good story! Highly recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Enchanted Prose

    Why undertake daring solo travel to the former Soviet Union republics? (in Central Asia, the Baltic states, Eastern Europe, and Russia, 2015 to 2016): Let’s say you have a twenty-eight-year-old friend whose single. She grew up in Boston, currently lives in your Brooklyn, New York neighborhood. What if she told you her “pipedream” was to travel to eleven (for now) of the fifteen countries once part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991, the majority still autocratic regimes? By herself. Why undertake daring solo travel to the former Soviet Union republics? (in Central Asia, the Baltic states, Eastern Europe, and Russia, 2015 to 2016): Let’s say you have a twenty-eight-year-old friend whose single. She grew up in Boston, currently lives in your Brooklyn, New York neighborhood. What if she told you her “pipedream” was to travel to eleven (for now) of the fifteen countries once part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991, the majority still autocratic regimes? By herself. For as long as a year. Your friend is candid, so you’re well aware she’s “insanely obsessed with the Russian language and culture (aka all her boyfriends were Russian),” but you hadn’t realized her obsession mushroomed into an “all-consuming passion” to take this crazy trip. What would you say to her? Suppose you also knew your friend takes Xanax for anxiety. Why throw herself into such high-risk, high-anxiety situations regardless of her wildest dreams? Your friend also suffers from motion sickness. She’ll be traveling on planes, trains, cars but figures her Sea-Band bracelets will counteract that. Good remedy, but not nearly good enough for the nitty-gritty of her protracted itinerary you weren’t privy to because she hadn’t planned that far ahead. So of course you couldn’t imagine she’d go trekking by horseback “climbing hills whose surfaces resemble the texture of crumbled paper” into the craggy, ten foot mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Audacious at best, particularly since the friend we’re talking about – Audrey Murray – had an episode of “high-altitude cerebral edema” at fifteen thousand feet. Add to the list of motion sickness triggers Murray encounters: buses in Kazakhstan that don’t fully stop to let passengers on and off, and a “rickety prop plane” in Tajikistan considered “the most terrifying flight on Earth.” All this happens to Audrey Murray a mere fifty pages into her 400 page memoir! She always wanted to be a writer. Did she have to go to the ends of the earth to accomplish that? Murray is someone who walks the talk. “Nerves are the whole point,” she says. Overcoming her worst fears offers her an enormous sense of accomplishment and boost of self-confidence, which she’s in need of when she sets in motion her “dreamy” idea. The gist of the author’s backstory: Murray was living in New York, then moved to Shanghai for four years SAT tutoring and founding a comedy club. Two years later she’s at a crossroads. Should she settle down, listen to her biological clock, parents, the path her peers were taking, societal expectations? Or, keep pursuing her curiosity and desire “to see life as being about the journey not the destination”? Murray’s push and pull struggles as she enters her thirties are perhaps universal, but the striking journey she took anything but. Shanghai is key to understanding why she took this plunge. Murray is obviously not new to throwing herself into the anxiety fire. Stand-up comedy is hard enough without attempting to tell jokes to an audience whose native language is Chinese. Gutsy. Shanghai is also important because of that boyfriend thing. Murray had two Russian boyfriends – Oleg and Anton. Anton’s the one who haunts her, leaving a “dullness to everything.” They met in Shanghai; he’s also a comedian. Their break up two years before she flew to Kazakhstan to launch her Soviet-inspired trip coincides with those last two unsettling years in New York. Anton is from Belarus, which accounts for Murray feeling: “of all the countries on Earth, Belarus is the place I’ve longed for the most.” Almost in the same breath she notes it’s “an isolated, authoritarian state said to most closely replicate life behind the iron curtain.” Daredevil that she is, she misses the intimacy of Anton terribly, fears she’ll never find another love like that. The poignancy of these emotions are ever-present. Poignant prose the heartbeat of her debut memoir. Amidst the seriousness of the trip, might the comedian/author’s prose sometimes be funny? Not laugh-out-loud but in a dry humorous way, witty, self-deprecating, lively, entertaining. An example: When Murray visits Chernobyl in Ukraine – yes, the actual site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster – she wonders: “Why am I here?” Precisely the question we keep asking. Why not stop after visiting Ukraine’s National Chernobyl Museum in Kiev? Instead, the author traveled into the Exclusion Zone, to the evacuated town where the reactor sits. Murray’s and our question is the book’s arresting literary hook: what drives someone to venture to dangerous places? Her reply: “Morbid curiosity? Regular curiosity? Fear of missing out on radioactive waste? Am I just drawn to anything that calls itself abandoned?” Murray details the history of the disaster. Here’s a synopsis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLkv_... Given Murray’s unorthodox itinerary, it’s staggering how “severely underprepared” she was. She did not overprepare to lessen anxieties like obtaining, in advance, all the visas she needed! Visas from countries like Belarus and Russia, notoriously difficult to obtain. The “tour fanatic” could have signed up for a tour run by a reputable travel company that would have handled the visas for her. Prearranged group excursions would mean the author could not have been gone as long she was (nine months by my count), and they cost a small fortune. Though for this independent spirit, feeling constrained may have been the strongest motivator. You might assume the traveler would have packed as light as humanely possible traversing so many countries, cities, dicey border crossings, hauling luggage on so many different types of transport, trains more than any other. Murray did not pack light. Her oversized baggage drew countless strangers to assist her. Their kindness surprises her over and over again. The writer is an amiable, romantic soul. Everywhere she goes she meets strangers: from the “hopeful and hopeless” former Soviet places they live in to adventurers from Europe and elsewhere, many couples. All while encountering numerous language barriers (Murray studied Russian for six weeks, but soon learns an hour a day fell woefully insufficient); cultural misunderstandings; and the baffling, constant exchanging of currencies, stunning devaluations when converted. For instance, 200,000 Belarusian rubles equals $1. The friendliness of foreigners also holds true for the varied hosts of all the accommodations she stays at: hostels, guesthouses, Airbnbs, yurts, a goat-herding camp, and with so-called couchsurfers who open their homes freely to foster authentic cultural awareness. (Can’t say that for the secret police hotel, but miraculously that worked out too.) Murray is on the lookout for connections, be it female friendships or perhaps another Russian love. Wide-open to possibilities, anything could happen. Like a dreaded travel fear: being kidnapped. As the author describes the frightening scene she found herself alone in, in a self-styled taxi driven by a male with a male friend seated beside him (shared taxis generally the rule), a nightmare she and we conclude was an attempted abduction, not some major language mishap. Harrowing, but it did not deter the intrepid traveler. Who goes on to ride the longest train route in the world, the Trans-Siberian Railway. For a month! Careful to portray only the most salient aspects, we learn there’s six legs on the Mongolia-to-Moscow route Murray chose (three options). Some span as long as twenty-three hours and more, with stopovers at five Russian cities. Except for the final destination, all unpronounceable and unknowable, certainly to me. In fact, the whole trip is hard to imagine. Making Open Mic Night in Moscow a window into the unimaginable. Lorraine (EnchantedProse.com)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marigold

    Three and a half stars. This description may or may not be accurate, but here's how I took it - a young woman who's a little bit of an airhead and bright, funny under-achiever, decides to take a year-long trip through the former Soviet Union countries including Russia, and ride the Trans-Siberian Railroad. In fact she's Russia-obsessed before she goes, having dated and fallen in love with two different Russian men. I read it as if someone who's a little bit like Carrie from Sex and the City - on Three and a half stars. This description may or may not be accurate, but here's how I took it - a young woman who's a little bit of an airhead and bright, funny under-achiever, decides to take a year-long trip through the former Soviet Union countries including Russia, and ride the Trans-Siberian Railroad. In fact she's Russia-obsessed before she goes, having dated and fallen in love with two different Russian men. I read it as if someone who's a little bit like Carrie from Sex and the City - only less well dressed - went to the former Soviet Union. Is she kind of ditzy? Yes. Did she not prepare for most of the situations she'd find herself in? Yes. Does she go on and on about her last lover Andre? Yes. But she's funny, adventurous, and open to experiences. Does anything horrible happen to her? No. Close, maybe, but no! I took it as proof you can go on a trip like this - ill prepared and unable to speak much of the language(s) - but if you're reasonably alert and open to trusting people you feel OK about, you can learn a lot and have a fantastic time. From freezing cold yurts to camping next to an active volcano crater to clubbing in Kazakhstan, to sleeping on couches in Russian apartments, from scary ride sharing experiences to unexpectedly being invited to a wedding, to sleeping next to strangers in the 2nd class car on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, there are lots of fun anecdotes and experiences here, and some actual learning to be had. Sometimes, armchair travel is the best, and certainly during a pandemic. I wasn't looking for a serious discussion of post-Soviet political science, and you shouldn't be either if you're picking up this book; it's also not laugh-out-loud funny throughout, but it's humorous, light-hearted, and self-deprecatingly romantic in a post-breakup way (yes, maybe a touch too much mooning over the relationship with Andre). For me, I'm not sure it's going to be memorable, but I enjoyed it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I held off on reviewing this book because I needed some time to sit with it. It wasn't at all what I had expected when I opened to the first page, but it surprised me in a really pleasant way. After reading the blurb, I had thought it would mostly be filled with jokes and shallow travel anecdotes designed to elicit snickers from the reader, but the author provided some great insights into the countries she visited. I particularly appreciated her musings about cross-cultural relationships, how ou I held off on reviewing this book because I needed some time to sit with it. It wasn't at all what I had expected when I opened to the first page, but it surprised me in a really pleasant way. After reading the blurb, I had thought it would mostly be filled with jokes and shallow travel anecdotes designed to elicit snickers from the reader, but the author provided some great insights into the countries she visited. I particularly appreciated her musings about cross-cultural relationships, how our national environment and upbringing impacts our sense of self and the world around us, and whether or not we can ever really know another person. I've seen some reviews of this book that were way too harsh -- this is a travel memoir, not an academic text, and I found it to be sweet and easy to relate to. In some ways, it provided me with some food for thought for the next time I travel. Unlike the author, I'm a planner, down to the very last detail, and I appreciated the opportunity to live vicariously through someone else's spontaneity. It was fun to read a travelogue by someone who is laid-back and genuinely open-minded. One of the best things about this book is that it introduced me to a region I'm not terribly familiar with; it's sparked my curiosity and made me want to learn more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    DW

    Murray's humour knocked my socks off. I actually was giggling on the bus, which I never do. She is frank about travel (and its sometimes profundity/disappointment); her stories are wild yet believable; and she is deeply personal in a way that really moved me (sometimes even embarrassed me because she was so forthcoming). You feel like she is putting explicit trust in you by revealing her innermost insecurities, all the while showing her resilience and endless wit. I don't usually read humour, but Murray's humour knocked my socks off. I actually was giggling on the bus, which I never do. She is frank about travel (and its sometimes profundity/disappointment); her stories are wild yet believable; and she is deeply personal in a way that really moved me (sometimes even embarrassed me because she was so forthcoming). You feel like she is putting explicit trust in you by revealing her innermost insecurities, all the while showing her resilience and endless wit. I don't usually read humour, but I too am fascinated by emotionally unavailable Russian men. God, she is funny. I loved this book so much. I got it out of the library but then I bought it. I think you should too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Charles McCaffrey

    I don't know how I feel about this book. As someone who has done stand-up I would have liked/expected that she would have tried more venues during her travels. Some of the history and travel writing was fascinating; but then she'd go on and on and on about Anton (her ex). And then doesn't even acknowledge him at the end of the book even though he is clearly the reason she even takes these trips. At times comes across as the clueless, self-centered, ignorant American-traveling-abroad stereotype. I don't know how I feel about this book. As someone who has done stand-up I would have liked/expected that she would have tried more venues during her travels. Some of the history and travel writing was fascinating; but then she'd go on and on and on about Anton (her ex). And then doesn't even acknowledge him at the end of the book even though he is clearly the reason she even takes these trips. At times comes across as the clueless, self-centered, ignorant American-traveling-abroad stereotype.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Travels in Russia and the surrounding countries in Central asia. I really want to like this book because I read many travelogue about Russia and it was always intriguing. I always learnt something about the place, the culture and its history but sadly, I struggled to complete the book. Audrey was too preoccupied with her own emotions to give an objective write up pf its culture and the people. There are some instances of good material but these are few and far between. I think this book is total Travels in Russia and the surrounding countries in Central asia. I really want to like this book because I read many travelogue about Russia and it was always intriguing. I always learnt something about the place, the culture and its history but sadly, I struggled to complete the book. Audrey was too preoccupied with her own emotions to give an objective write up pf its culture and the people. There are some instances of good material but these are few and far between. I think this book is totally missable.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Reads like a discovered journal from high school or college that is so earnest, self-referential, and immature that you can’t help but blush in shame. Not in a cute way. The book would have benefited from editing - both for length and monotony, as well as to cleave out the countless passages where the author moons over an ex that she never actually says anything good about. Some historical and geopolitical fact-checking world also be hold. Editing and fact-checking, however, wouldn’t fix her smu Reads like a discovered journal from high school or college that is so earnest, self-referential, and immature that you can’t help but blush in shame. Not in a cute way. The book would have benefited from editing - both for length and monotony, as well as to cleave out the countless passages where the author moons over an ex that she never actually says anything good about. Some historical and geopolitical fact-checking world also be hold. Editing and fact-checking, however, wouldn’t fix her smug attitude toward the people and places she visits, regardless of their kindness to her.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shirley

    I'm going to say 4 stars. I may rating it higher than it really deserves but that's because I didn't expect to enjoy it. It was a random grab off the library shelf and it worked out. I learned a few things I didn't know. The narrative made me laugh and almost cry too. Also, she stayed honest and it goes to show that not all American tourists deserve the reputation of entitled liitterbug. At least not all the time. You should read this book I'm going to say 4 stars. I may rating it higher than it really deserves but that's because I didn't expect to enjoy it. It was a random grab off the library shelf and it worked out. I learned a few things I didn't know. The narrative made me laugh and almost cry too. Also, she stayed honest and it goes to show that not all American tourists deserve the reputation of entitled liitterbug. At least not all the time. You should read this book

  22. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

    At the start the narrative was a little too obvious that the author is a stand-up comedienne - but the writing eventually grew on me. I liked reading about traveling in countries I have never dreamed of visiting. There's not really a resolution exactly --- which is a little odd given how much of the book is focused on Audrey's emotional torture about what route her life should take. Entertaining but not a must-read. At the start the narrative was a little too obvious that the author is a stand-up comedienne - but the writing eventually grew on me. I liked reading about traveling in countries I have never dreamed of visiting. There's not really a resolution exactly --- which is a little odd given how much of the book is focused on Audrey's emotional torture about what route her life should take. Entertaining but not a must-read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    This is an excellent book about a part of the world most of us know little about - The former Soviet Union. A contemporaneous account of her travels through all the "stans". I do feel it was a mistake to market the book as humor or comedy. This is an excellent book about a part of the world most of us know little about - The former Soviet Union. A contemporaneous account of her travels through all the "stans". I do feel it was a mistake to market the book as humor or comedy.

  24. 4 out of 5

    KelseyAC

    I’m very grateful that Audrey shows by example that you can still be a procrastinating, untrusting, hangry human being and still successfully manage a multi-month trip through places where you neither know anyone nor speak the language. Audrey is real throughout this book- any lessons or transformative moments were not contrived but came as a result of kindness being forced upon her from strangers, despite her most stubborn efforts to sabotage all non-awkward social interactions. I very much con I’m very grateful that Audrey shows by example that you can still be a procrastinating, untrusting, hangry human being and still successfully manage a multi-month trip through places where you neither know anyone nor speak the language. Audrey is real throughout this book- any lessons or transformative moments were not contrived but came as a result of kindness being forced upon her from strangers, despite her most stubborn efforts to sabotage all non-awkward social interactions. I very much connected to the deeply Massachusetts-style self-reflection about how misinformed her assumptions had been about a particular person or city... especially when she was so certain everyone was trying to take advantage of her through offering help and expecting nothing back. Who does that??! (In this book I learned: most people not from the Greater Boston Area) Because of the writing, I felt okay that I didn’t know anything about the history or culture of the former Soviet Union, though I ended this book with a long list of things to read more about. Audrey made me want to learn more without feeling like a terrible person for not knowing, because she was often in the same boat. The book is hilarious and I am excited to see what Audrey’s next adventures look like!

  25. 4 out of 5

    JamesR

    This book recounts the adventures of the author as she visits all of the countries that once made up the Soviet Union. The chapters vary from hilarious adventures to thoughtful musings on romance, yaks, bad breakups, moths, Genghis Khan, and society’s expectations of women. She visits a museum in the middle of the desert where a collector secretly amassed the works of banned Soviet artists, camps beside a crater that has been burning for forty years, and becomes an expert on trading currency in This book recounts the adventures of the author as she visits all of the countries that once made up the Soviet Union. The chapters vary from hilarious adventures to thoughtful musings on romance, yaks, bad breakups, moths, Genghis Khan, and society’s expectations of women. She visits a museum in the middle of the desert where a collector secretly amassed the works of banned Soviet artists, camps beside a crater that has been burning for forty years, and becomes an expert on trading currency in black markets. The writing is extraordinary, reading this book was pure delight. We are right there with her travelling along the border with Afghanistan, riding the Trans-Siberian Railway, and everywhere else. As we travel, she calls our attention to the unique, the striking, and the thought provoking in scene after scene. The chapters on the Uzbek wedding, the secret museum, getting out of Turkmenistan when she had run out of money, and the visit to Chernobyl are exceptional high points in an excellent book by a gifted writer. I enjoyed this book so much that when I finished it, I started over and read it again.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    I found this delightful to read, even though it also made me a tiny bit sad as the author visited Saint Petersburg, a place I was SUPPOSED to go back to in 2020. Nevertheless, this book also had me laughing out loud at times and I was thoroughly entertained. The author has a way of describing things in a way that is both accurate and hilarious. The honesty in her self-reflections is refreshing, too. Thank you for sending it to me, Masha! I also have to add, as someone who has also traveled solo, I found this delightful to read, even though it also made me a tiny bit sad as the author visited Saint Petersburg, a place I was SUPPOSED to go back to in 2020. Nevertheless, this book also had me laughing out loud at times and I was thoroughly entertained. The author has a way of describing things in a way that is both accurate and hilarious. The honesty in her self-reflections is refreshing, too. Thank you for sending it to me, Masha! I also have to add, as someone who has also traveled solo, as a young woman, through parts of the former Soviet Union, that some of the other reviews of this book are really frustrating. "Wow, a young woman traveling alone! *clutches pearls*" "Bitch should have been better prepared! *types from the couch, having never traveled to places where it is legitimately not easy to get a visa*" Come on. Her doing her own thing and not having an hour-by-hour itinerary is not your problem.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Lauren

    Travel can turn the smallest errands into triumphs that feel like major accomplishments. I adored this book. Hilarious - especially at the start - I have a soft spot for any woman-traveling-alone-memoir and this one does not disappoint. Murray and I, I am quite sure, would be fast friends. I love how she has seen amazing things and explored areas that others wouldn't even consider going but manages to not get that hoity-toity feeling that some other travelers do. Though I haven't gone nearly as f Travel can turn the smallest errands into triumphs that feel like major accomplishments. I adored this book. Hilarious - especially at the start - I have a soft spot for any woman-traveling-alone-memoir and this one does not disappoint. Murray and I, I am quite sure, would be fast friends. I love how she has seen amazing things and explored areas that others wouldn't even consider going but manages to not get that hoity-toity feeling that some other travelers do. Though I haven't gone nearly as far off the grid as she has, she travels in the same way I like to and definitely felt a kindred spirit in this storytelling. I would have done without the last portion of the book - the Trans-Siberian ride - as it seemed to pull down the momentum we felt earlier. That being said, I really loved learning about these fascinating countries, hearing the anecdotes about the people she met, and exploring some of Murray's own personal life lessons.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I understand what a lot of people here in the reviews section are saying when they write "who goes to the former Soviet Union without adequate preparation?!" But that is a VERY minor part of the book. It is a chronicle of Audrey Murray's adventure through the former Soviet Union which will most definitely inspire its readers to plan a trip there (post-Covid). It's laugh-out-loud funny, relatable (as in, that is most DEFINITELY how I would act being in her place in such scenarios as the Trans-Sib I understand what a lot of people here in the reviews section are saying when they write "who goes to the former Soviet Union without adequate preparation?!" But that is a VERY minor part of the book. It is a chronicle of Audrey Murray's adventure through the former Soviet Union which will most definitely inspire its readers to plan a trip there (post-Covid). It's laugh-out-loud funny, relatable (as in, that is most DEFINITELY how I would act being in her place in such scenarios as the Trans-Siberian railway or trying to get to sleep in a yurt), and a highly enjoyable read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    mimi

    This book was great! I really enjoyed her writing style and it was a great traveler's journey through many (if not all) of the former states of the U.S.S.R. It made me want to visit one or two (but not ALL) 🙄 I really liked how she talked about how things worked in the various countries without going off on a tangent about politics. In fact, I REALLY liked how (mostly) apolitical it was! I will definitely recommend it to my book club, many of who are world travelers!😎 This book was great! I really enjoyed her writing style and it was a great traveler's journey through many (if not all) of the former states of the U.S.S.R. It made me want to visit one or two (but not ALL) 🙄 I really liked how she talked about how things worked in the various countries without going off on a tangent about politics. In fact, I REALLY liked how (mostly) apolitical it was! I will definitely recommend it to my book club, many of who are world travelers!😎

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chase Taylor

    Loved it. I came in expecting a funny book, which I got, but did not expect to learn as much as I did. The author's misadventures through the former SSRs are at times charming, painfully awkward, and illuminating. Her self-deprecating approach distinguishes her from other travel writers who can often seem self-righteous and willfully culturally insensitive. She comes in with no illusions and copes as she can, often with hilarious, but sometimes jarring, results. Good travel read! Loved it. I came in expecting a funny book, which I got, but did not expect to learn as much as I did. The author's misadventures through the former SSRs are at times charming, painfully awkward, and illuminating. Her self-deprecating approach distinguishes her from other travel writers who can often seem self-righteous and willfully culturally insensitive. She comes in with no illusions and copes as she can, often with hilarious, but sometimes jarring, results. Good travel read!

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