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The Scent of Pineby Lara Vapnyar
Synopses & Reviews
Throughout her acclaimed, award-winning career, novelist Lara Vapnyar has consistently impressed critics with her striking honesty, empathy, and humor—yet never before have Vapnyar’s talents been as perfectly matched or shone as brightly as in her captivating latest novel, The Scent of Pine.
Though Lena is only thirty-eight, she finds herself in the grip of a midlife crisis. She feels out of place in her adoptive country, her career has stalled, and her marriage has tumbled into a spiral of apathy and distrust—it seems impossible she will ever find happiness again. But then she meets Ben, a failed artist turned reluctant academic, who is just as lost as she is. They strike up a precarious friendship and soon surprise themselves by embarking on an impulsive weekend adventure.
On the drive to Ben’s remote cabin in Maine, Lena begins to open up, for the first time in her life, about the tumultuous summer she spent as a counselor in a Soviet children’s camp twenty years earlier, when she was just discovering romance and her own sexuality. At a time when Russia itself was in turmoil, the once-placid world of the camp was growing equally unsettled, with unexplained disappearances and mysterious goings-on among the staff; Lena and her best friend are haunted by what they witnessed, or failed to witness, and by the fallout from those youthful relationships. It was a time of intense emotions, confusion, and passions, and ultimately very little turned out to be exactly as it seemed.
As Lena reveals to Ben secrets she has long kept hidden, the lovers begin to discover together not only the striking truths buried in her past, but also more immediate lessons about the urgency of this short, stolen time they have together.
A stirring, sexy, and breathtaking novel with an unforgettable twist, The Scent of Pine is both a poignant love story and a provocative tale of loneliness, longing, youthful romanticism, and the fickle nature of desire.
"Vapnyar (Memoirs of a Muse) delivers an awkward mix of angst and absurdity in her sophomore novel. Lena, a morose adjunct professor of film studies, catches a train out of N.Y.C.'s Penn Station for Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where she is scheduled to be a substitute speaker at an academic conference. Her husband, Vadim, and their children are spending the weekend visiting his parents. During the trip, Lena runs into an old friend, Inka, whom she knew in Russia, and who immigrated from there years before. The chance encounter brings back memories of time spent together as counselors at a camp in the Soviet Union during one haunting summer in the 1980s. At the conference, she meets and is drawn to Ben, a professor of graphic novels, and the two of them decide to travel home together. The rather bland pair begins a desultory affair, filling their travel time with Lena's stories of the camp and comparisons of their past affairs and the disappointments of their present relationships. Vapnyar's spare prose never brings Ben and Lena to life, but Lena's reminiscences vividly render the anxieties of adolescence amid the waning days of the Soviet Union. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Lara Vapnyar moved from Moscow to Brooklyn in 1994. Knowing very little English, she quickly picked up the language and soon began writing in it. She is the author of two story collections, There are Jews in My House and Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love, and a novel, Memoirs of a Muse. She lives in New York City with her family.
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