Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1078
Super Sad True Love Story is an epistolary novel built around the diaries of Lenny Abramov and the online posts of Eunice. Author Gary Shteyngart tells their love story against the backdrop of an American dystopia. Shteyngart’s novel is ultimately a satire of contemporary American values and trends, including the...
(The entire section contains 1078 words.)
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Super Sad True Love Story is an epistolary novel built around the diaries of Lenny Abramov and the online posts of Eunice. Author Gary Shteyngart tells their love story against the backdrop of an American dystopia. Shteyngart’s novel is ultimately a satire of contemporary American values and trends, including the erosion of American political values, the obsession with youth, and the urge to publish personal information through social networking.
When Super Sad True Love Story opens, Lenny and Eunice are in Rome. Lenny is of Russian and Jewish descent, and he is nearly forty years old. Lenny’s age, which is revealed through his Ohio-shaped bald spot, is problematic in his line of work. Lenny is a Life Lovers Outreach Coordinator for Post-Human Services, a division of Staatling-Wapachung Corporation. Essentially, Lenny is a salesman trying to find clients for a new program that will supposedly allow people to live forever. Lenny is determined to never die. He has fallen in love with Eunice Park after meeting her at a party.
Eunice Park is twenty-four years old and is of Korean descent. She is living abroad, having studied Images and Assertiveness in university. Eunice’s father is a podiatrist, but his business has been failing since he moved from California to New Jersey. He is also violently abusive to his wife and daughters. On her GlobalTeens account, Eunice sends messages to her mother, Chung Won Park, and her friend, Precious Pony, and chats with her sister, Sally. These messages reveal that Eunice does not have many goals aside from shopping for Total Surrender panties on Ass Luxury. Eunice’s parents want her to become a lawyer. Her mother particularly laments Eunice’s low LSAT scores, all the while reminding Eunice that as the oldest daughter she has a responsibility to take care of her sister and her parents. Eunice’s mother also urges her to find a Korean Christian to date but cautions her against giving her “mystery” to any man.
Lenny leaves Rome first. The Bipartisan Party and the American Restoration Authority, whose slogan is “Together We’ll Surprise the World,” now run America. Before he can return to America, Lenny goes to the American embassy where he is interviewed by a program with an avatar otter named Jeffery Otter. Although Jeffery Other assures Lenny that they are going to be friends, Lenny is flagged after he confesses that he has socialized with “some Italians” (which the otter records as “Somalians”) and that he has slept with “DeSalva, Fabrizia.” Although Lenny is concerned about his safety, he returns to New York without incident and begins to wonder whether the city is still his home.
New York is in a state of transition. Social networking is now done on an “äppärät,” a sophisticated device that allows users to broadcast all of their personal experiences while also receiving information from social networks like GlobalTeens and news outlets like CrisisNet. There are many crises affecting America. It has invaded Venezuela and the economy is crippled by debt, so much so that there are two currencies: dollars and Yuan-pegged dollars. Because America is operating on credit from the Chinese, the government is unable to pay combat bonuses to its veterans, who, in New York, are collecting in Central Park. On GlobalTeens, these veterans are known as the “azizarmy.”
Lenny receives a message from his boss, Joshie Goldman, who informs him that his job and pay are in jeopardy. Lenny reacts quickly, making a list of things to celebrate and to achieve. Among his most important goals, Lenny is determined to love Eunice, to celebrate his parents and his friends, and to make Joshie want to protect him. Although things seem bleak for Lenny, he is actually doing very well. In fact, his credit rating is much higher than that of most people in his community.
Eunice returns to New York to be closer to her family, a move that she hopes will prevent her father from abusing the Parks. Without anyone else to turn to, Eunice decides to move in with Lenny. Lenny loves Eunice and claims that he wants to protect and help her, but Eunice is the dominant partner in the relationship. In fact, Lenny often finds himself begging Eunice not to leave him. Although she does not express her feelings to Lenny directly, she admits to Precious Pony in her messages that she appreciates Lenny’s kindness and his intelligence. Although Lenny reads books, he is kind enough to spray them with Pine Sol so that they will not cause the apartment to smell.
For a while, Eunice and Lenny become closer and fall in love. Eunice helps Lenny to dress and eat better; because Lenny has such an attractive girlfriend, he is able to stabilize his position at work. Meanwhile, Eunice uses her father’s and Lenny’s credit to begin providing supplies for the azizarmy in Central Park. Although things are going well, Joshie Goldman becomes attracted to Eunice, and she finds herself tempted by his artificial youth and his corporate power.
Politically, America erupts when the People’s Capitalist Party of China decides to stop propping the American economy. Although there is unrest everywhere in America, it is particularly intense in New York. The American Restoration Authority fires upon the azizarmy, killing eighteen people, and government helicopters blow up a public ferry.
Afterward, things slowly stabilize. Food and water are difficult to come by, and many people work manual labor on the “five-jiao line.” It is revealed that America has been dissolved and will now be parceled and sold by the Norwegians and the Chinese. New York will become a “prize city” and a “lifestyle hub” for the wealthy. The poor will be forcefully evacuated.
Lenny and Eunice’s relationship ends when Eunice leaves Lenny for Joshie. Although she cares about Lenny, Joshie provides her with an income and has the power to prevent her parents from being deported. Lenny, meanwhile, realizes that his parents are the most important influence on his identity. He also realizes that death is a reality that everyone must face, and he overcomes his fear of it.
Super Sad True Love Story ends with a series of entries from Lenny that he made decades after his time with Eunice. His and Eunice’s posts have become famous and their relationship has been adapted for film. Lenny has moved to Toronto, and America remains a parceled, sold former country.