A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir

  • by Lev Golinkin
  • Narrated by Daniel Gamburg
  • 9 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A compelling story of two intertwined journeys: a Jewish refugee family fleeing persecution and a young man seeking to reclaim a shattered past.
In the twilight of the Cold War, nine-year-old Lev Golinkin and his family cross the Soviet border with only ten suitcases, $600, and the vague promise of help awaiting in Vienna. Years later, Lev, now an American adult, sets out to retrace his family's long trek, locate the strangers who fought for his freedom, and in the process, gain a future by understanding his past.
Lev Golinkin's memoir is the vivid, darkly comic, and poignant story of a young boy in the confusing and often chilling final decade of the Soviet Union. It's also the story of Lev Golinkin, the American man who finally confronts his buried past by returning to Austria and Eastern Europe to track down the strangers who made his escape possible…. and thank them.
Written with biting, acerbic wit and emotional honesty in the vein of Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Safran Foer, and David Bezmozgis, Golinkin's search for personal identity set against the relentless currents of history is more than a memoir: it's a portrait of a lost era. This is a thrilling tale of escape and survival, a deeply personal look at the life of a Jewish child caught in the last gasp of the Soviet Union, and a provocative investigation into the power of hatred and the search for belonging. Lev Golinkin achieves an amazing feat - and it marks the debut of a fiercely intelligent, defiant, and unforgettable new voice.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Touching, moving Memoir

Would you listen to A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir again? Why?

Definitely! I loved both the author and the narrator! They were both engaging, poignant and humorous in the right spots. I loved it


What did you like best about this story?

The whole thing was a tgerrific read about identity, race, family, and perceptoin.


Have you listened to any of Daniel Gamburg’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not. My quibble with his performance is less about his narration and more about the post-production. The narrator was very good, but switches in audio quality - even mid-sentence - became incredibly distracting to an audiophile with a good set of headphones...


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Both! I laughed out loud in some places, and cried at some moving moments.


Any additional comments?

This book is less about Lev's journey to find the people who assisted him as a child, and more about his experiences as a refugee, then an immigrant; as a Jew and an anti-Semite. While this was not a bad thing, the publisher's description talks more about his journey to locate the people who assisted him.
Terrific read, either way!

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- Daryl

Enjoy... Enjoy... Enjoy...

If you could sum up A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir in three words, what would they be?

Engaging, Interesting, and Funny


What was one of the most memorable moments of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir?

I was surprised to find out how difficult it was for the author's family to leave Russia in 1989!?? I love history and read a lot of nonfiction but this was different because the author is essentially the same age as I am! It was eye-opening in a very relate-able way!


Which character – as performed by Daniel Gamburg – was your favorite?

I thoroughly enjoyed Daniel's narration. His slight accent was endearing and (although I am not Russian) it sounded authentic and natural! I just finished listening to a completely different audiobook about Russia and the narration made me want to scream because it was so overdone and obnoxious!


If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The title of this book would be hard to beat!


Any additional comments?

It was so interesting to listen to Lev's impressions of his trek to America via Austria. His family was hilarious, intelligent and lovely to 'get to know.'He helped me see America through the eyes of an immigrant. I always admire and envy those from other cultures who come to America but this story helped me also see the struggles as well. This is an uplifting story about human kindness, friendships and family! I learned so much about Russia, immigration policies (or lack thereof), and what it means to be a family!

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- casey

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-04-2014
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.