A Novel

Fiction - Thriller - Political
356 Pages
Reviewed on 09/03/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Amerikana: A Novel by Daniel Hryhorczuk explores the intersection and blurred lines between faith, politics, and social media, specifically within America but probably equally applicable to any western democracy where the Judeo-Christian faith is one of the nation’s founding principles. Mark Rider is just a young man seeking to find himself, find his direction in life, and ultimately his purpose. A divinity student dropout and the son of two devout ministers in the intensely religious “Bible Belt” of the U.S., Mark was indoctrinated in an evangelical way his entire life. As a journalism student on summer vacation, Mark wants to discover the real America for his blog on Americana with a road trip across the U.S., seeking the unusual, the great, and the forgotten monuments that document the country’s tumultuous history. Just south of Miami, though, Mark’s journey is interrupted by the appearance out of the sea of a beautiful, totally naked Ukrainian sculptress who is on the run from a Russian oligarch’s yacht and the man who raped her, a U.S. Senator. So begins an epic adventure across the wilds of America so few Americans know, as Tanya and Mark seek to stay one step ahead of their ruthless pursuer, the Russian hitman and enforcer, Dmitri. Can Mark find a way to expose the corruption deep within the U.S. Government as well as that within the evangelical movement with their tele-evangelists and their mega-churches and still keep the pair of them alive and safe?

Amerikana is a searing and prescient look at the world that we have become – manipulated and driven by subtle and not so subtle digs, through religion and social media, at our faith, our beliefs, and most importantly, our fears. Daniel Hryhorczuk has created a situation that as a reader watching the latest political machinations unfold, one could easily believe as being true and indicative. The intersection between social media and politics, using the deep-held faith of the believers as leverage, was utterly convincing and equally frightening. This is a taut, action-packed thriller that isn’t afraid to ask the big questions and to question some of our most cherished beliefs and convictions. That, above everything else, raises it over and above many of today’s similar stories in the genre. The relationship between Mark and Tanya was definitely the highlight of this story. Mark, hidebound by his strict religious upbringing and his own strong moral code, wants to protect Tanya from the “baddies” but, equally, he is torn by his overwhelming lust for the beautiful Ukrainian. For her part, Tanya is a product of her difficult upbringing and her shady past but seems fully able to rise above those horrors. The sexual tension between the pair ripples beautifully through each page and is superbly handled by the author. What this story makes you do is look at real-life situations all around us and ask “are we really seeing the truth of this situation?” For me, that’s what makes this book stand out so much. It’s a fantastic read and one I cannot recommend highly enough.

Viga Boland

Amerikana by Daniel Hryhorczuk is an ambitious and complex novel that wouldn’t work if written by a less qualified author. Writing like this takes both knowledge and skill, and Hryhorczuk, a professor emeritus conversant with medicine, toxicology, and global health, is both knowledgable and creatively skilled. The ambitious complexity of Amerikana lies in the author’s desire to do more than write a political thriller. Hryhorczuk brings together an unlikely pair of protagonists: a beautiful Ukrainian sculptress, Tanya, who is about to display her talented creations in the USA, and a journalism student, Mark Rider, whose passion, after religion, is exploring, uncovering, and presenting through his blog all things authentically American e.g. landmarks, folklore, foods, and pastimes.

The opening chapter immediately captures readers’ imaginations: admiring American scenery as he drives along the Overseas Highway, Rider is stopped by the sight of a wet, naked, frightened, and dazed-looking Tanya at the side of the road. She jumps into his car, and from that point on, Mark is drawn into an unexpected situation that could ultimately cost both of them their lives. They end up traveling thousands of miles together, forever pursued by the cold-blooded Dmitri whose task is to bring Tanya back to the dangerous Russian oligarch from whom she has just escaped after being raped by a US senator. The reasons for the connections between the Russian and the US senator are what makes this political thriller an uncomfortable, even probable reflection of what is happening in the US today.

Why Amerikana comes across as an ambitious novel is the additional content Hryhorczuk has incorporated into the plot and characterization. As much as Rider and Tanya are trying to outwit and escape their pursuer, Rider is still hell-bent on gathering more material for his Amerikana blog. So he takes Tanya off the beaten tracks to places she might never see or experience while in the US: they visit cities, monuments, and national attractions. Along the way, as Mark is also heavily steeped in the Bible, they engage in heady conversations about the whys and wherefores of religion. Tanya learns a lot about America and its religious leanings...and so do readers! Amerikana is a combination of thriller, travelogue, and religious discourse. It will make you wonder even more about the possibilities of Russian meddling in American politics. Even more disconcerting is the case it makes for how religion can be used to gain power in the US. In summary, give yourself plenty of time with this novel. It’s not a quick, weekend thriller: it’s too thought-provoking for that.

Vincent Dublado

Amerikana is a political thriller like no other. This third offering from Daniel Hryhorczuk introduces us to a gifted young sculptor named Tanya Bereza, renowned for her kinetic peace sculpture in honor of the heroes of the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity. She had a falling out with her generous sponsor, Victor Ivanovich, a mafia boss regarded in the underworld as a first among equals. Bereza flees to Miami with the help of Mark, a journalism student who blogs about the pieces of the puzzle that make up the “real” America. Together in their journey through the cultural, religious, and political panoramas of America, they find themselves entangled in a web of conspiracy involving the Russians infiltrating the United States through the backdoor of America’s organized religion.

Amerikana is a well-crafted political thriller in which the aesthetics of the narrative would be familiar to anyone who has ever read Ludlum, Clancy, or Forsyth. But Daniel Hryhorczuk is in a league of his own. As political thrillers often present a single protagonist having the power to make a difference or alone save the world, Tanya’s affinity to the mob and Mark’s propensity to dig up political dirt make for a fascinating rubric of cat and mouse plot that culminates into larger scales of events. In a struggle against antagonists wielding the necessary machinery to rearrange the political and religious landscape to whatever means they deem fit, how two ordinary mortals join forces to deter a covert threat results in an enjoyable, multi-layered story filled with nostalgia and intrigue. Amerikana is hard to put down and lives up to its premise.