There's a certain arch consciousness of this within the text, as when one of the few non-Russian characters says:
"What sort of culture invents a spirit whose only purpose is to throw onions and shriek at night? It's just stupid."
A blood-curdling shriek answered him from somewhere behind the pipes.
"Oh shut up," he said. "Bloody banshee wannabe."
The cries sputtered and stopped in an uncertain whine.
A strange combination of humor and fatalism runs through the text. I lived in the Eastern Bloc during the deep days of the Cold War — squirrel_monkey's descriptions of modern Moscow ring very true to me. (As a Russian emigré, she should know.)
Something that impresses me a great deal about this book is a completely extra-textual fact about the author. English is not squirrel_monkey's cradle language. Much like Joseph Conrad, she learned it as an adult. I cannot fathom moving to another country, another culture, adopting their language, then acheiving sufficient fluency to write lyrical fiction in my new tongue. That she has done so, and created a fascinating journey through the id of one of the world's greatest and most tragic cities, is noteworthy indeed. Go read it.