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The Wittiest Stories to Come out of Russian Émigré Brooklyn Since Sergei Dovlatov

Brooklyn, NEW YORK, March 2018—Born and raised in Soviet Odessa, Efroim Gurman has been a pet lover from day one—volunteering at the local zoo, filling his room with bird cages and aquariums, and learning everything he could about animals. As an adult, he channeled this passion into the study of biology and reached the highest ranks of academia. But, in the late 1980s, the Soviet Union descended into the chaos of collapse, and Gurman realized that there was little hope for him in his home country. His family in tow, he moved to a Russian-speaking neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Unfortunately, his academic degrees bore little weight in the United Sates, and his knowledge of English was less advanced than he had hoped. Instead of continuing along the academic path he had started, Gurman got a job as a veterinary technician at a vet clinic, eventually becoming its senior manager. This March, Gurman has released, Smiles, Tears & Thoughts: Behind the Front Desk at the Vet’s Office, a collection of humorous, poignant essays about his adventures (and misadventures) in the field. Astute, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Gurman portrays the world of Brooklyn’s post-Soviet émigrés from his vantage point as a vet clinic employee—exploring their intrigues, their relationships to one another, and, of course, to their pets, in the most darkly humorous and wittiest prose to come out of Soviet émigré Brooklyn since the era of Sergei Dovlatov. Gurman has created a world you will not want to leave.

“The mystery of real love is that there’s no reason for it. It’s not an exchange—I’ll give you this and you’ll do that. Actually, the opposite. Love is the only benefit of love. Most often, the connections between people and their pets are pure love.”—Efroim Gurman, Smiles, Tears & Thoughts: Behind the Front Desk at the Vet’s Office

From the book: “Madame Pumpkin is our loyal client. I gave her the pseudonym “Madame Pumpkin” just to be polite. I’m sure Madame Pumpkin will never open this book. More so, I doubt she’ll ever open any book, except, maybe, a phone book. If by some miracle she, or one of her close relatives/friends does read this story, she/they would recognize her from the first few sentences.” –from the story, “Sex for Husky.”

Efroim G. Gurman was a renowned scientist in Eastern Europe. Throughout his career he has published numerous papers in peer-reviewed journals and several books in Russian and in English: Scientific Basis of Cookery (Russian Academy of Science, 1995); Dogs and Drugs (1995, Odessa); The Comprehensive Manual for Individualized Dog and Cat Grooming (2007 and 2012, New York); Grooming: Profession, Art and Business, (Kiev, 2014); Zoo Forever (1997, Odessa).

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