Auguste Rodin



East of the West

A Country in Stories

Miroslav Penkov

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 226 pp., $24

Miroslav Penkov hit American shores in 2001 (he was 21) from his native Bulgaria, and he hasn't stopped writing (or winning prizes for his wild, homesick short stories) ever since. Comrades, girlfriends, bagpipe makers, Turks, Greeks, Slavs, grandparents, miners, ghosts and photos — Penkov's teeming stories accomplish in phrases what lesser writers take chapters to convey — the immigrant's disorientation, the homesickness for things like bread, the strange humor of the displaced family.

It is a collection of triumphs; consider the father who teaches his...