Kelsey's Reviews > Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab

Hack by Dmitry Samarov
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's review
Jun 11, 2012

it was amazing
Read on June 11, 2012

I stumbled upon this gem at a book fair and am so glad I picked it up. In thoughtful, observant prose, Dmitry Samarov recounts the monotony and absurdity of his job as a cab driver in Chicago. Samarov holds a degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, and his sketches of customers -- some far from flattering -- dot the pages of this slim gem. Like his drawings, the stories themselves are quick studies, but they manage to convey a breadth of human emotion and experience. Samarov describes drunks, PDA-obsessed young (and old) couples, deadbeats, drug dealers, and derelicts with the wary eye of a man who has to take whatever fare climbs into his backseat, no matter their physical or emotional state. But he also bears witness to unexpected moments of human connection and joy, when the tedium of scanning for the next raised hand or dealing with the labyrinthian policies of his cab company becomes almost worth it.

Samarov divides his book into days of the week (plus holidays) to give his readers a sense of the rhythm of a "typical" week. This stylistic device was effective; I truly felt like I was along for the ride. I was surprised by the number of hours he spends waiting -- waiting at the airport for his cue to be sent to the terminal, waiting in the wee hours of the morning for an available cab, waiting for his perennially crappy cab to be outfitted with a new air conditioner or control panel. Samarov reserves special vitriol for the incompetent folks working at the cab warehouse, for bus drivers in their hulking vehicles, and for bicyclists who flirt dangerously with cabs, buses, and traffic controls. However, Samarov's bitterness never overtakes the writing nor does it cast a cynical shadow on the book. Rather, he conveys the irritation that all of us experience to some degree while negotiating a city like Chicago.

And what a city it is. I loved reading about the neighborhoods and places I know -- though there were many that were new to me. I kept expecting to see myself or someone I knew in print. And while I didn't, I finished this book with a new respect for the hardworking cab drivers trolling the city streets, just trying to make a buck like the rest of us.

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