Love Like Water, Love Like Fire

304 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.99
ISBN: 9781942658566


ISBN: 9781942658573

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“What distinguishes Iossel as a writer, aside from his obvious talent for atmospheric dramedy, is his lucid, musical prose style. . . . Iossel’s marvelous sense of rhythm dazzles the reader. We can’t stop turning the pages of this book.”

New York Times Book Review

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“Harrowing, hilarious, dark, and devastating. . . . Iossel’s sentences twist the reader through the illogical forces of dictatorship, childhood, puberty, survival, and writing angsty poetry in a communist regime.”

Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize jury citation

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“The former USSR continues to cast a long shadow on our current affairs, but Mikhail Iossel brings a fresh eye to the region. . . . Engaging equally with the absurdity and brutality of life in a repressive regime, [Love Like Water, Love Like Fire is] perfect for fans of Gogol and George Saunders alike.”

Chicago Review of Books

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“Very funny. . . . In Love like Water, Love like Fire, jokes point to the absurdities and logical contradictions in everyday life. . . . There is something refreshing about Iossel’s willingness to maintain his sense of irony, even about such intractable subjects as anti-Semitism, the ghastliness of Soviet bureaucracy, or the irreconcilability of death with human happiness.”

Literary Review of Canada

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“Iossel is an exception among the writers of his generation. . . . Full of subtle irony and macabre humor, his prose makes such skillful use of American colloquialism that it is as though these stories take place in some fictional Soviet-America.”


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“[Iossel’s] lens is honest and compassionate. If there’s one takeaway from Love Like Water, Love Like Fire, it’s that this compassion may be necessary today more than ever.”

Winnipeg Free Press

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“Brilliant. . . . [Iossel] has created a style that is as intriguing and richly suggestive as that of his predecessor, Vladimir Nabokov.”

Canberra Times

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“An expertly written set of stories, often brimming with dark humor, offering many vantage points from which to consider the Soviet experience, and the particular burdens it placed on Jews.”

J. The Jewish News of Northern California

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“Iossel brings his warm, gently ironic authorial voice to bear on the cruel and often surreal lives of Jews in the Soviet Union. . . . ‘There is love like fire, and there is love like water,’ say the Hasidic masters, and Iossel’s collection explores that dichotomy.”

Jewish Book Council

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“[A] vibrant collection. . . . With an ear for the clumsiness of Russian bureaucratic nomenclature, an eye for Kafkaesque humiliations, and a heart that embraces all the paradoxes of being a Soviet Jew, Iossel casts a spell over the reader. Reading like Sholem Aleichem updated by Bruce Jay Friedman, these stories reflect the exciting evolution of Russian Jewish literature.”

Publishers Weekly

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“[An] engaging collection. . . . While many stories illuminate the absurdity of Soviet society, Iossel conveys the brutal oppression of the surveillance state most intensely, and hauntingly, in the title story.”

Kirkus Reviews

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“Replete with an erudite wit and eloquent wisdom, Love Like Water, Love Like Fire is an extraordinary, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read.”

Midwest Book Review

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Love Like Water, Love Like Fire is an extraordinary book: funny and profound, moving and provocative. Rarely has life in the former USSR (or anywhere, for that matter) been portrayed with such a rich admixture of soaring observation and finely rendered detail. This is a gorgeously constructed collection by one of our wittiest and most insightful writers.”

Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans

“Iossel is a genius, a comic visionary in the tradition of Gogol, Keret, Barthelme, and Saunders. Love Like Water, Love Like Fire is a book of surprises and delights.”

Brian Morton, author of Starting Out in the Evening and Florence Gordon

“Dark and funny. . . . [Iossel’s stories] provide an insider’s take on what it’s like to survive in a terrifying yet absurd reality.”

Sharon Weinberg, Chatham Bookstore (Chatham, NY) on WAMC The Roundtable

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From the moment of its founding, the USSR was reviled and admired, demonized and idealized. Many Jews saw the new society ushered in by the Russian Revolution as their salvation from shtetl life with its deprivations and deadly pogroms. But Soviet Russia was rife with antisemitism, and a Jewish boy growing up in Leningrad learned early, harsh, and enduring lessons.

Unsparing and poignant, Mikhail Iossel’s twenty stories of Soviet childhood and adulthood, dissidence and subsequent immigration, are filled with wit and humor even as they describe the daily absurdities of a fickle and often perilous reality.

Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction Winner

Story Prize Longlist

Chicago Review of Books “Must-Read Books” selection

WAMC The Roundtable “Book Picks” selection

Excerpt from Love Like Water, Love Like Fire

Mikhail Iossel discusses Love Like Water, Love Like Fire with Fiction Writers Review.

Read a story from Mikhail Iossel’s Love Like Water, Love Like Fire at the Literary Hub and preview more in the New Yorker.