An absentee father, a former dissident from communist-era Prague, needles his adult daughter for details about her newly commissioned play when he fears it will cast him in an unflattering light. An actor, imprisoned during the Red Scare for playing up his communist leanings to get a part with a leftist film director, is shamed by his act when he reunites with his precocious young son. An Israeli soldier, forced to defend a settlement filled with American religious families, still pines for a chance to discover the United States for himself.
...it seems as if the decision to spread out geographically allowed her to look at the fragile connections that exist between people in and out of couples and families. The stories are as satisfying as individual novels. They often keep going right past the point where you thought they would end. And spreading them out geographically lets Antopol look at fragile connections between people in couples and in families ... They'll make you nostalgic, not just for earlier times, but for another era in short fiction.
It sometimes put me in mind of Allegra Goodman’s work; both writers are adept at auditing the emotional lives of frazzled Jewish intellectuals. At other times, the Old World lefty politics in Ms. Antopol’s stories summoned the memory of Grace Paley, for whom every joke came wrapped around a bony fist of meaning ... Political awareness is a birthright for Mr. Antopol’s characters. So is latent paranoia ... It’s one of the achievements of Ms. Antopol’s stories, though, that her men and women seem to be questioning everything, all the time ... The details in these stories are consistently fresh and offbeat without being showy ... By the final third of The UnAmericans, I began to feel that I was returning to places I’d been ... If this impressive book sometimes makes the sound of a writer still figuring it all out, Ms. Antopol’s soulfulness and wit make even holding actions memorable and promising.
Antopol dissects idealism and cynicism in equal measure, and shows the effects of each on the lives of those around her protagonists. History and culture loom, but never for the same person in the same way, and loneliness and confusion result ... Whether its familial or economic, Antopol does a good job of channeling her characters’ anxieties, and she shows the aftereffects of seismic political decisions on daily striving worldwide.