“Heads You Win”

heads“Heads You Win” by Jeffrey Archer is a story of a mother and son who escape oppression and political conflict in Russia and struggle for success in a new land. It is a universal story with an unexpected twist.

Alexander Karpenko and his mother Elena are escaping Russia by stowing away on one of two ships leaving a Russian port. Where will they end up? They flip a coin, heads; you win and go to… Herein is the twist, what if?

Where did Elena and Alexander (Alex/Sasha) end up? How would life in New York be different from the life in Southampton? Readers follow the mother and son over the years in two parallel scenarios. Alternating chapters (conveniently labeled with location, date, and name) tell the story of Elena and Alex in America, and Elena and Sasha in England. They struggle; they have successes, and they suffer setbacks.

Each storyline is a compelling and wonderful scenario on its own. Readers get vivid picture of the people, the events, the politics, and the balancing act that goes on continually in the life of an immigrant family in both locations. The characters are well developed and multifaceted; readers quickly appreciate the complex circumstances that are certainly different, and yet similar in so many ways.

The characters ask themselves is, “Would things have been different if we had gotten on the other ship?” Readers know, but still an unstated problem hangs over every page, which situation is the accurate representation? The more curious question is will the two storylines intersect? Important details remain for readers to discover, but questions are answered as the story comes to an unexpected but satisfying.

I received a copy of “Heads You Win” from Jeffrey Archer, St Martin’s Press, The Pidgeonhole Book Club, and NetGalley. It is different approach to character’s journey, and I was captivated by both stories. The ending was stunning, explosive, and thought provoking. It is an interesting journey for readers, and I absolutely recommend reading it.