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Soviet emigre struggling in American academia, with flashbacks to her childhood summer camps during perestroika. Lots of entry points for me. But no. Many of the negative reviews on GoodReads come from readers offended by adultery, or readers who were seeking a more plot-driven, less contemplative read.

To be clear: those were not my problems at all. It was just poorly written. The transitions into t Ugh. The transitions into the flashbacks didn't work for me at all. I found Lena's interior monologue more credible for an adolescent than an adult. The descriptions of academia were heightened to the point of satire, very out of place in this deeply realist work. This problem is particularly surprising given that the author is an academic herself. I liked the premise here, and the descriptions of landscape were very beautiful. But not much else here worked for me. Dec 30, Sharon Chance rated it it was amazing.

I choose this book to be my first book to read in - I wasn't disappointed in my choice! Yapnyar's writing style is captivating and her cast of characters are very relatable. Russian-born, Yapnyar captures the mystery of Soviet Russia so realistically and her story bristles with intrigue and sensuality. This is slender novel is to be read carefully I choose this book to be my first book to read in - I wasn't disappointed in my choice! This is slender novel is to be read carefully and savored carefully, with attention paid to the nuances and subtleties that makes this book a pleasure to read.

A word of caution - this is a very mature book with adult situations. Feb 03, Rachel rated it liked it. Why do some things from our teen years stay with us like a splinter that has not come out? The main character worked at a summer camp during those years and what happened there to her is emblematic of her life- the mistakes and chances not taken. She is a woman propelled forward not really making decisions but letting decisions make her.

I enjoyed. Feb 13, Mike Heenan rated it did not like it.

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The ending is one that makes you realize you should have stuck with your gut and shelved the book after the first couple of chapters. Sep 19, Gail M rated it liked it. Maybe 2. Mar 15, Nanci rated it it was ok Shelves: uno , amazing-race , fiction , historical-fiction. The writing of this book sometimes made it a bit tricky to follow.

It jumped around from past to present and from first person to third person. That could have been well-done, but the story itself left me feeling like it just wasn't complete. It was a fast read, but I was hoping for more of a coming-of-age story. The characters, for the most part, just felt a bit hollow. I'm a little disappointed that this is the book that I chose to get signed by Lara Vapnyar. She came to the DC Jewish Literary Festival to promote "Still Here," which was still in editing at the time and wouldn't hit bookstores for almost a year.

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I chose to buy this book, I think because I'd read it described somewhere as being about assimilated Soviet Jews there were definitely some Jewish-associated names, but no cultural content beyond that at summer camp in the s. I'd enjoyed Vapnyar's I'm a little disappointed that this is the book that I chose to get signed by Lara Vapnyar. The back copy premise of this book, perhaps, could have worked as a short story--a woman embarks on a sudden, weekend affair in the woods, and it awakens old memories of some disquieting events that happened when she was a camp counselor 20 years previous.

Could have invoked a moody, mysterious atmosphere in something like 7, words, perhaps. Even as a small, page novel, this story was stretched too thin. Protagonist Lena basically tells the backstory to her lover, Ben, in clunky, expository dialogue.

The Naked Truth

Really felt like Vapnyar was using first person when she should have been using third person; perhaps, as her second published novel, she was still getting used to the English language, which she didn't speak until immigrating to the US as an adult. She also used workmanlike language to tell us how we should be feeling about Lena and her rather unremarkable, IMHO story at any given time. I had deeper issues with the premise as well. We started out promisingly, I thought, with the use of an academic conference and a fleeting encounter with her old friend, Inka, to highlight Lena's dissatisfaction with her life.

But then enter Ben, who immediately started staring at her with the intensity of someone who noticed the "protagonist" sign over her head.

Hardback Editions

A couple other people in the book stared at her with similar intensity, and that was never adequately explained. I also thought--though this might be the fault of the publishing house--that the copy on the back cover about "mysterious disappearances that rocked a Soviet children's camp" was pretty wildly inaccurate. Even before the plot twist, which did prove something new about Lena's past, none of those disappearances were actually disappearances.

The twist was interesting for the new perspective that it shone on Lena's experiences. It probed the issue of coming to terms with a more objective reality after basically mythologizing part of your past. And the dialogue at the end highlighted what I think Vapnyar wanted to explore about feeling trapped in middle aged relationships, and searching for happiness.

But it was all rather a bit too little, too late. A very low 3 stars, if I'm feeling generous. A little to esoteric for my taste. Sep 09, Andrea Mullarkey rated it really liked it. Bouncing back and forth between Lena's present day life as a community college professor presenting at a literature conference and her past as a counselor at a summer camp in rural Russia during the s, this book had a somewhat magical quality. It is not magical realism but it is filled with the magic of reality: the way that time slips back and forth and stories, once understood, become convoluted.

The most magical part of this book is the way people return to our lives without fully reveali Bouncing back and forth between Lena's present day life as a community college professor presenting at a literature conference and her past as a counselor at a summer camp in rural Russia during the s, this book had a somewhat magical quality.


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The most magical part of this book is the way people return to our lives without fully revealing themselves until much further into the story. And then the revelation of the truth seems inevitable even when it was utterly impossible to conceive just moments before. Which tells you what I loved about this book but not much else. So I suppose I ought to say something about the plot. Lena and Ben meet at a conference in New England and strike up an awkward friendship. Both are in disappointing relationships, both struggling with their place in the academic circles they move in, both essentially lost.

As they leave the conference for an ill-conceived and spontaneous trip to Ben's remote cabin in Maine, Lena begins to tell her story about the defining summer of her adolescence.

She was a counselor in a Soviet children's camp, discovering her own sense of self and her sexual awakening. Disappearances at the camp heighten the tension in a story that already has all the angst of adolescence and drama of perestroika.

The parallels between her country's move through the cultural changes of the 80s and her own coming of age are striking. Infused with the intensity of emotion that accompanies new opportunities, the confusion and turmoil of change, the shifting allegiances and uncertain witness to events not fully understood, The Scent of Pine is an affecting novel that manages to be both funny and heart-breaking.

Sep 11, Lolly K Dandeneau rated it liked it. Lena ,in the grips of a midlife crisis, is on her reluctant way to a conference. Feeling lost in her dying marriage and motherhood, she meets Ben, a fellow academic and failed artist, who seems to spark life back into her.

Lena decides to accept a ride home with him that soon turns into an impulsive trip to his secluded cabin. Along the way, Ben seems to open memories of her time at a Soviet children's camp where she was a shy counselor that finally has her first taste of romance with soldiers s Lena ,in the grips of a midlife crisis, is on her reluctant way to a conference. Along the way, Ben seems to open memories of her time at a Soviet children's camp where she was a shy counselor that finally has her first taste of romance with soldiers she meets.

Memories of her friend Inka spill out as well, with stories of strange encounters, mysterious disappearances and a frightening story the children recount.