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Love & Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine

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"Love & Vodka" is the true story of Bobby, a young Michigander who meets a girl from Ukraine at Universal Studios in California. Upon his return to Michigan, Bobby decides to follow his heart and take a leap of faith--traveling from comfortable "have-a-nice day ... and have-a-warm-shower" suburban Detroit to the former center of Cold War Soviet missile production--the industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. And unbeknownst to anyone but himself, he's bringing an engagement ring!

Throughout the course of the book, the reader will experience life in a city that, until the mid-1980s, was closed to foreign visitors. This humorous, memorable expedition is punctuated by a colorful cast of characters, adventures, and cultural mishaps and misunderstandings--from irate babushka women to hard-drinking uncles.

"Love & Vodka" is a unique hybrid of travel memoir and love story that seamlessly blends outlandish humor, cultural insight and a steady stream of romance. It will appeal to male and female readers of multiple age groups. It is a faithful reminder that there is someone out there for everyone. The world is large and rife with potential; one just needs to be willing to take a gamble and explore the possibilities that exist.

295 pages, ebook

Published October 29, 2015

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About the author

R.J. Fox

3 books27 followers

R.J. Fox is the award-winning writer of several short stories, plays, poems, a memoir, and 15 feature length screenplays. Two of his books are currently in development as feature films (they were originally screenplays). His first book – a memoir entitled Love & Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine was published by Fish Out of Water Books, along with his first novel Awaiting Identification. He also published a collection of essays entitled Tales From the Dork Side.

His work has been published in over 30 literary magazines and journals.

He is also the writer/director/editor of several award-winning short films. His recent stage directing debut led to an Audience Choice Award at the Canton One-Acts Festival.

Fox graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and a minor in Communications and received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.

In addition to moonlighting as a writer, independent filmmaker and saxophonist, Fox teaches film and literature in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, where he uses his own dream to inspire his students to follow their own. He has also worked in public relations at Ford Motor Company and as a newspaper reporter. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI.

His website is rjfoxwriter.wordpress.com. Or follow him on Twitter @foxwriter7.

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5 stars
31 (36%)
4 stars
23 (27%)
3 stars
22 (26%)
2 stars
6 (7%)
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2 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews
Profile Image for Zinta.
Author 4 books234 followers
March 23, 2016
Love, science reveals, is really just another form of madness. The brain undergoes similar changes, from the rational into the irrational, and the resulting pheromone chemical soup tastes like insanity.

Dearborn-native (Michigan) and author R.J. Fox would probably not debate any of that. It took all of twenty minutes for him to fall in love with a foreign exchange student he spotted in a line for an amusement park ride. When she returned to her native Ukraine, he followed her, engagement ring in his pocket. And more madness ensued.

In his memoir, Love and Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine (Fish Out of Water Books, October 2015), Fox recounts that initial meeting with Katya and the trip he took to Ukraine a year later to bring her back to the States again—as his wife. His adventures on foreign soil as he works up the nerve toward a marriage proposal and earn the blessing of Katya’s family are both outrageous and hilarious.

Babushka-wearing old women curse him, snarl and chase him, threaten to splatter him with bleach. Well-meaning hosts force vodka on him in toast after toast that he finds he cannot deny, resulting in drunken stupors, cold outdoor showers, and barefoot walks across sharp-edged rocks in his underwear. And so the story unfolds as Fox learns about a culture and a world far different than his own. Within its traditions and people, he finds himself in comical situations, but he also learns lessons about himself, love, and home.

What has remained with him from that mad and maddening journey these many years later, Fox says, “is the immersive experience of being in a whole other world than the one I know. Out in general public, people had a distrust toward me because I was not from Ukraine. This was in 2001, so not too far removed from the Soviet years when Ukraine was the center of missile-building during the Cold War. The distrust—it was the closest to feeling discriminated against that I’d ever known in my lifetime.”

In inner circles of what would increasingly become family, however, Fox found warmth, love, and family connection, not unlike what one would find in any family anywhere, and all liberally christened with yet more vodka. Although the resulting marriage would last only eight years—Fox is now remarried and has two children—he holds his memories of his Ukraine adventure close to his heart.

The memoir is the first publication of a new Ann Arbor-based publisher, Fish Out of Water, run by Jon and Laurie Wilson.
Profile Image for Liz Crowe.
Author 91 books1,198 followers
February 20, 2016
As a semi-pro ex-pat, having lived almost 8 years between three countries, I'm always eager to read about other American's experiences in distinctly non-American settings. And you can't get much farther away from the apple pie, hot dog, purple mountains majesty (or more precisely, suburban Detroit) than a former Soviet Block country like Ukraine. And of course, as the first word of the title states without flinching, the reason for Bobby's trip to Ukraine is "love." I was hooked from the moment this was presented to me! I truly adore the author's style. This memoir could easily be read as a novel, or perhaps more appropriately, a screenplay. An utterly charming romp, rich with humor and culture shock--and at its heart, a solid gold love story. Don't miss it!
4 reviews
December 17, 2016
Enraptured with Ukraine

Very well written account of the people, culture, and a great love story of Bobby and Katya. The book conveys Bobby's passion for life. The details are amazing and Bobby's humor fortifies the happenings. Hard to put the book down. I smirk when I think of Babushka, one of my favorite characters. Look forward to more novels from this author.
Profile Image for Beth.
852 reviews7 followers
August 24, 2022
R. J. Fox (Bobby) is a currently a screenwriter, but in 2000 he was still a want-to-be writer and student when he happened to meet Katya at the Universal Theme Park in Los Angeles. He lived in Detroit, Michigan, and she was from Ukraine. It was a happenstance sort of meeting that led to a major life decision. Nearly a year later, he flew to Ukraine to see her and meet her family. They were in love.
This was prior to recent problems in Ukraine, but the country still had issues before the recent Russian invasion. It had been under Soviet domination for nearly 70 years and hadn't really recovered. Everything about Ukraine seemed broken and/or corrupt, except Katya. Her family had what seemed to be major superstitions and paranoia. They also had a constant bottle of vodka to serve in shots at meals. Bobby was not used to straight shots of vodka and this caused several humorous disasters. The book covers the three-week vacation in Katya's home in detail.

I enjoyed the book immensely. R. J. Fox obviously is a talented writer; his memoir is both fun and very informative about a country that has currently in the news.
Profile Image for Beth.
852 reviews7 followers
September 8, 2022
I enjoyed this book so much. The author, R. J. Fox (Bobby) is a screenwriter and this memoir definitely shows his talent. He met Katya at Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles in 2000. She was Ukrainian and an exchange college student in the U.S. for a year. Eventually, Bobby goes to Ukraine (note: it is Ukraine, not THE Ukraine) to visit Katya in her home in Dnipropetrovsk (Knee-prop-e trovsk). He is in love with Katya, but not altogether sure about Ukraine - unusual customs and superstitions, suspicious guards, and other remnants of the Soviet era made it feel less than welcoming. However, the people were very friendly, once inside their homes. Vodka flowed freely at every
meal - in part due to issues with both water supply and purity. Drinking water was all bottled.
I was intrigued with the details of family life and the way it was compared to American life.
Since this was a memoir and written by someone in love with a Ukrainian woman, there is a positive spin. It doesn't have the dark feeling that I usually find in Eastern European books. In fact, Bobby and Katya even discuss the differences in humor or lack of it in the two cultures.
July 17, 2021
This is a five-star book for me without a doubt. However, my opinion is heavily biased, I assume.

Everything happens in Dnipropetrovsk, my hometown. The stories that have occurred in the book are happening on the same streets where I have spent a lot of years, the traditions are weird from the American perspective, but are familiar and quite logical for me. The places mentioned in the book are well-described, so I can say that there was enough attention to all of the details.

Also, my opinion is biased because the events are happening in 2001, so it is also a nostalgic experience. Dnipropetrovsk and Ukraine has changed a lot since that times, so I bet that after 20 years there would be much less weird adventures for a foreigner in Ukraine.

The one thing that I do not get - it is looking out of the window. I have never heard any stories that you are forbidden to look out of a window, because someone can throw something at you. Everything else that is described in the book is more or less relatable to Ukraine in 2001.

I will definitely recommend this book to everyone, who wants to experience three weeks in post-Soviet Ukraine.
Profile Image for Beau.
122 reviews1 follower
April 24, 2022
Would not read this ever again. Did not enjoy it or his writing especially his perspective / his voice . He seemed very mocking / sardonic and the story ended abruptly which was odd. I would’ve appreciated some kind of conclusion to the story like where are they now what has he reflected on if any from going there which it doesn’t seem like he did . He comes off being very white male dudebro not understanding a culture or making a lot of effort too. I would rather heard from a Ukrainian perspective. He’s why I don’t generally read white cis male authors. I did find details of the country , food, her family , cultural differences interesting .
Felt very 90 day fiancé to me with two people who barely know each other and don’t have anything in common, with one not having much respect for the other’s culture etc .
3 reviews
February 17, 2019
RJ Fox’s part-memoir, part-fiction Love and Vodka is as engrossing as it is entertaining. Told with no little humour, we travel with Bobby to the Ukraine as he pursues romance with Katya. The inevitable culture clash as Bobby attempts to settle into this new routine are authentic, informative and funny. Love and Vodka is the sort of book you have to read through to see how it all pans out so I wasn’t surprised in the slightest to see the exciting news it is being made into a movie. Get yourself a copy of Love and Vodka!
251 reviews1 follower
May 20, 2019
I hear that this RomCom by an Ann Arbor author and teacher is headed for the Silver Screen. It is a true story of an American man and a Ukrainian woman who meet at an amusement park in the US and fall head over heals in love. The author does the right thing by going to meet her family in Ukraine. In doing so, he makes a sincere effort to learn her language so he can better communicate with her parents. The author's descriptions of post-Soviet Ukraine are sometimes funny and other times bleak.
Profile Image for James.
40 reviews
March 10, 2022
Wow unbelievable. I want to say a very big thanks and appreciation to DR. Kadiri. of all spell casters worldwide for bringing back my wife who left i and the kids for almost two years months within the space of 72
hours after following all instruction given to me. i am very much grateful for restoring peace in my marital home, and i pray God almighty give you the strength and wisdom to continue helping more people having similar relationship and marital problem like mine. for help you can contact with him WhatsApp number.

WhatsApp Number: +234875795842
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
Author 1 book1 follower
September 29, 2017
Love & Vodka is such a wonderful tale of adventure and romance! When I started learning Russian, my teachers would often remark on superstitions, traditions, how things were "over there" and other things left over from the soviet era. This book highlights those insights with hilarious characters, heart-warming moments, and vivid highlights of traveling in such a foreign place. This book does not disappoint!
7 reviews
June 1, 2022
I found the author annoying and had a hard time reading this book. I kept thinking Katya would change her mind. Maybe she did and that is why the book ends so abruptly. The book is short but felt tedious to read. I did find the cultural differences interesting.
Profile Image for Frank Morelli.
Author 5 books114 followers
July 28, 2017
The love at first sight story of a Dearborn, Michigan native (Bobby) and his muse from Ukraine (Katya), is sweet and intoxicating, made more so because it is expertly steeped in the unique and satisfying wit of R. J. Fox. And, much like a night of vodka-swilling, you'll come for the love story and leave with an education...in this case about a stark cultural divide between two foreign lands and the ties that bind us together nonetheless. A great read!
Profile Image for Leah Kessler.
Author 1 book15 followers
October 26, 2016
I enjoyed this book a great deal because I spent time living in a country that borders Ukraine only a year or two before this book takes place and I found myself smiling and groaning in recognition over and over. The grime and corruption and dysfunction of many aspects of recently post-communist eastern Europe were depicted accurately, as was the warmth and affection and passion of the people. I was also fascinated by the many details that were so similar and yet so different, just one country away.

Love and Vodka is yet another in the genre of "humorous travelogue to a foreign country where cultural differences lead to wacky misunderstandings." I've read a number of similar books because I enjoy a good wacky adventure, both on and off the page. This book toed the genre line and, in my opinion, didn't stand out in any significant way. The editing in the second section of the book (which is much shorter than the first) seemed off, including the wrong name being used for one of the characters. This did pull me out of the story a bit, but it was more of a minor annoyance than a huge problem.

I found the narrator genuinely likable. I also appreciated that his focus was primarily on his own person experiences, with a very small amount of cultural and historical information thrown in. Sometimes I feel that books of this type wander a bit heavily into philosophizing about how much better we have it here in America. This book did mention that, which I think was very appropriate, but didn't try to make a moral lesson out of it. If I was less familiar with the history of the region, I would probably have enjoyed a little more background, but what there was I found informative and interesting.
Profile Image for Stacey Eid.
59 reviews3 followers
June 5, 2016
Great read. A Funny and heartwarming glimpse of love and life in Ukraine. The descriptions of people and places brought the setting to life and made it possible to visualize scenes that would normally be beyond imagination. Highly recommend!!
Profile Image for Alisa.
224 reviews3 followers
July 16, 2016
Bizarre and entertaining, and I couldn't put it down. Good for anyone needing an escape from the heaviness of modern life.
Profile Image for Barb McMullen.
2 reviews2 followers
May 1, 2016
Could be so much more but I was too annoyed by the poor writing.
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews

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