***spoiler alert***Anna, a house painter, lives with her ill son and her former poet, now alcoholic father barely making ends meet since her husband is mostly absent while away in the army. The story takes place during the Cold War in the 1970's and describes the dismal and bleak existence that Anna must endure. The only bright spot in her life is her affair with Alexey, a married man, twice her age. The KGB threaten the relationship by forcing Anna to spy on him. Alexey, a true player in espionage feeds Anna false information to put the KGB off the track while he plans to defect. Anna confesses to Alexey her double dealing and dashes any hope of continuing the relationship. She then tries to mend her relationship with her husband, but receives a letter from him that he is in love with another woman. Oh, but wait! Anna may be able to redeem herself with Alexey -- you will have to read the book to see if that works out. Whew!There are lots of twists and turns getting to the end of this book and it is filled with the dense machinations of Cold War politics and very descriptive. The book did has a sort of thrilling part to it and I wondered whether Anna would finally be happy, but I still got the sense that in Russia during this time period, the chance that anyone could possibly be happy under the dire circumstance of mistrust and poverty that are every day life were pretty small. If you like stories about the Cold War, this is a nice peak inside that time period with a little romance thrown in.