In Love Songs of the Revolution, Martynas, a seventy-year-old man exiled from his birthplace and home in Vilnius, reflects on his terrifying experiences as a pawn in a political movement and a wanted political refugee. After heroically–though unintentionally–making a large contribution to the Lithuanian independence movement, he was forced to flee his home country and settle in the United States.
Narrating from his home in Los Angeles, Martynas is understandably jaded from all the atrocities he’s witnessed in the weeks leading up to his exile–finding his wife dead on their kitchen floor, seeing countless involved in the independence movement murdered, and narrowly escaping his own assassination. Now he’s forced to live the remainder of his life in a foreign country he despises, without the comfort or support system of children, friends, or relatives.
Today I have been reduced to a time and place where my greatest fear is that when I die I will be buried in this dry, dusty city on the edge of this abysmal country. To be buried here is to be forgotten. If a coyote shits on my grave, its feces will dry up and blow away to become part of the haze and pollution that blankets this city, rather than nourishing the growth of another generation of plants. It is as bad to die in Los Angeles as it is to live here.
Many times, the narration feels like an open letter to Americans, full of accusation and criticism:
I warn you now, my fellow Americans…you will be disappointed by this story. You measure the quality of literature by the complexity of its plot twists. Unpredictability and “originality” are valued above all else. You insist on a happy ending, or at least a glimpse of a silver lining behind every cloud. You want to know that no animals were harmed in the making of this story. I can promise you none of this…. You are fools to expect anything but heartache and disappointment. It is your expectations that make you weak.
Up until that grim day on August of 1989, back “when the cellular phone was still the size of a brick,” Martynas lived a modest, educated, and artistic life married to a physicist named Natalie. He enjoyed simple pleasures like painting, having dinner and drinks with friends, “making love” to his wife, and cheating on said wife.
After finding Natalie murdered, Martynas develops an unyielding compulsion to investigate her death. Similar to the The Constant Gardener, he discovers his wife led a double-life—in this case, as a key player in the Lithuanian independence movement. She had documents that could tip the independence movement in favor of the people, which pro-democracy factions were not ready to see happen, and therefore they put an end to the messenger. As Martynas discovers more about his wife’s involvement in the movement, he finds himself in the middle of a killing field, witnessing his allies plinked off one-by-one, and even his innocent lover, Žemyna, disappears.
Mauldin’s writing is engaging, never strays or slips into a rambling mess, and maintains razor-sharp tension from start to finish. My only gripe: there were instances when the author could have left some interpretation up to the reader. The thorough explanations and details took away from the mystery and thrill of the story, though this may have been an intentional literary tactic for the oblivious American that Martynas addressed with abrasive scorn throughout the text. Occasional glimmers of dark humor lightened the intense passages, and worked well to move the plot forward: “Now I realized,” Martynas thinks, “that I’d merely been cheating on my wife, while she had been doing the kind of espionage I could only dream about. It made me feel cheap.”
A humbling thriller for the average American living in a bubble of social media, fifty-inch plasmas, pop music, and medicinal marijuana, Love Songs of the Revolution is a well-crafted thriller about one man’s battle for justice amidst a dangerous political backdrop.
You can download an ebook of Love Songs for the Revolution for free from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography website (voluntary Paypal donations are encouraged).
Lavinia Ludlow is a musician, writer, and occasional contortionist. Her debut novel alt.punk can be purchased over at Casperian Books. Her sophomore novel Single Stroke Seven will release at the end of 2015. She’s reviewed independent literature at Small Press Reviews, The Nervous Breakdown, The Collagist, American Book Review, and The Next Best Book Club. Find her on: Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter