TROIKA

Adam Pelzman

A young Cuban woman passes her nights dancing in a seedy Florida strip club; a Russian orphan loses everything, then builds a new and prosperous life for himself in New York; a woman struggles to maintain her dignity and hope after a life-changing accident—these are the three members of the troika whose story is told in this dazzling literary debut.

Their lives unexpectedly intertwined, Perla, Julian and Sophie discover a world—a way of life—that forces them to challenge their definitions of commitment, love and trust, a world that heals old wounds and inspires them to transform tragedy into beauty.

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A young Cuban woman passes her nights dancing in a seedy Florida strip club; a Russian orphan loses everything, then builds a new and prosperous life for himself in New York; a woman struggles to maintain her dignity and hope after a life-changing accident—these are the three members of the troika whose story is told in this dazzling literary debut.

Their lives unexpectedly intertwined, Perla, Julian and Sophie discover a world—a way of life—that forces them to challenge their definitions of commitment, love and trust, a world that heals old wounds and inspires them to transform tragedy into beauty.

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  • Berkley
  • Paperback
  • April 2015
  • 304 Pages
  • 9780425275368

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About Adam Pelzman

Adam Pelzman studied Russian literature at the University of Pennsylvania and received a law degree from UCLA. Troika is his first novel. He lives in New York City with his son.

Praise

“Riveting drama and sensuous prose make for an unforgettable love story.”—Kirkus Reviews

“So beautiful and powerful…Pelzman’s talent and vision are formidable.”—Publishers Weekly

“Troika opens in a strip club, an unlikely setting for a love story. Author Pelzman plays with reader expectations throughout his debut novel, delaying the introduction of the third member of his love triangle until deep into the book. The payoff is significant and surprising. Pelzman inhabits each of these characters with an intimate first person, and each point of view sounds authentic, as well as distinct from the others.” —Booklist

“Troika is literary gold, and Adam Pelzman is a shooting star.”—Bookreporter.com

Discussion Questions

The narrative is structured in an unusual way: For most of the book, Perla’s and Sophie’s stories are told in the first person and Julian’s is told in the third person. Not until Epilogue #1 does the reader finally hear from Julian directly. How does this narrative structure affect the story?

Julian is a man who is prone to violence, obsessed with making money, and unfaithful to his disabled wife. What about his personality, his experiences and actions, makes him an appealing character despite these characteristics?

How would the story be different if, instead of being a stripper, Perla were, say, a waitress or a lawyer? Is there any connection between the fact that Julian’s mother was a prostitute and Perla is a stripper? Did Perla’s job affect your view of her? If so, how?

Consider how Sophie’s disability has changed her life. At one point she says, “There are times—and now is one of them—when I hate myself and want to die. Never have I had the courage to kill myself, to take the necessary and affirmative steps to ensure my own death.” Does she truly wish she were no longer alive? How has being paralyzed affected her: Her mentality? Her personality? Her relationship with Julian? Her relationship with herself?

In light of her sexual limitations, Julian is unfaithful to his wife. Are there circumstances under which marital infidelity is justifiable? Or should spouses always be faithful to each other regardless of the circumstances?

Is it significant that Julian and Perla come from foreign countries, and if so, why? How does their “immigrant experience” help form their identities? How might the story have changed if Julian and Perla had been born in the United States?

Julian is a violent man, but he resorts to violence only when he believes his cause is just. Is his violent behavior justified when he kills Krepuchkin or when he attacks Sophie’s uncle? Are there circumstances in which violence is not only justified, but indeed required?

Although the book is ultimately about Julian, Sophie, and Perla, there are two old men—Frankmann and Old Pepe—who pass wisdom down to these characters when they are children. Consider the influences that the two men have on the lives of Julian and Perla, and how their teachings are instrumental to the story. What is the importance of having an older mentor during one’s youth, somebody (other than a parent) who imparts great wisdom and experience?

Julian blames himself for Sophie’s accident, even though she does not hold him responsible. How does his guilt affect him and his relationship with Sophie? Why do people sometimes have trouble letting go of guilt even if they are innocent or have been forgiven?

Perla is stuck in a dead-end job, Sophie is stuck in her paralyzed body, and Julian is trapped by his past. They have all suffered in their own ways, yet their suffering ultimately changed their lives for the better. How have painful experiences in each of their lives helped shape them and eventually led to great joy? In what ways have they been able to liberate themselves? In what ways are they still trapped?

The relationship among Julian, Sophie, and Perla challenges the traditional model of a monogamous romantic relationship. Is it possible to be involved in more than one healthy, intimate relationship, if all parties agree? What are some issues these characters might face in their unconventional relationship? Do you agree with their decision to have this arrangement?