Given the media attention lavished on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, it’s understandable that readers might wonder what more there is to learn. Everything, it turns out. Gessen, in this exquisitely well-told story of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the brothers who carried out the attack, surrounds the awful event with layer upon layer of meaning. Gessen’s own Russian background helps her unravel the immensely complicated vagabond existence of the Tsarnaev family. Like many of their fellow Chechens—a people Stalin uprooted in the last stages of World War II and shipped in cattle cars to Central Asia—the Tsarnaevs struggled to find a place, first in Russia and ultimately in the United States, where they and their children could enjoy upward mobility. Gessen is personally familiar with the Russian immigrant experience and sketches with special insight how it went so awry in this case. She skillfully reconstructs and narrates the bombing and its aftermath, but it is her dogged determination to talk to everyone overseas and in the United States who knew the family that makes the book so startling and eye opening.
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