Witty, engaging and attuned to the complexities of history and ethnicity, Steavenson, a veteran journalist, spins lyrical tales of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia as it crumbles around her in the late 1990s. She helpfully includes a glossary of ethnic groups in the region (Chechen, Georgian, and Abkhazian among them) and an excellent bibliography. Her stories capture both the charm of the people and their desperate situations. At one point she admits "I was happy; charmed, drunk and beguiled like thousands of guests and invaders before me, in the land of hospitality." A superb first book by a talented writer.