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Each of Lara Vapnyar's six stories invites us into a world where food and love intersect, along with the overlapping pleasures and frustrations of Vapnyar's uniquely captivating characters. Meet Nina, a recent arrival from Russia, for whom colorful vegetables represent her own fresh hopes and dreams . . . Luda and Milena, who battle over a widower in their English class with competing recipes for cheese puffs, spinach pies, and meatballs . . . and Sergey, who finds more comfort in the borscht made by a paid female companion than in her sexual ministrations. They all crave the taste and smell of home, wherever--and with whomever--that may turn out to be. A roundup of recipes are the final taste of this delicious collection.
Tanya is a typical teenager living with her bookish professor mother in a cramped Soviet apartment. She is obsessed with Dostoyevksy, and noticing that he always portrays his mistress and muse in his novels-never his wife-she determines to become a companion to a great writer. Her opportunity comes when, as a college graduate newly emigrated to America, she attends a Manhattan bookstore reading by Mark Schneider, a Significant New York Novelist. Tanya quickly moves in with Mark, ready to dazzle in bed, to serve and inspire . . . if only he would spend a little more time writing. But as she struggles to better understand her role as Muse, Tanya also learns more than she expected about the destiny she has imagined for herself.A touching and very funny novel in the great tradition of Russian realism, Memoirs of a Muse is also a lively meditation on the mysteries and absurdities of artistic inspiration.From the Trade Paperback edition.k's work and her true role as Muse--Tanya also learns more than she expected about the destiny she has imagined for herself.Animated by Vapnyar's beguiling grace and vividness--with a narrative richness reflecting the great tradition of Russian realism to which she is a natural heir--Memoirs of a Muse is an altogether wonderful novel. It is a lively meditation on female capabilities and happiness, on the mysteries of artistic inspiration (and the absurdities of artistic life), and, perhaps most movingly, on the pain and wonder of the immigrant experience in New York City.From the Hardcover edition.
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.
Innocence rounds the bend to experience in these beautifully shaped stories of Moscow and Brooklyn, which take up the worldview of the young and overlooked. The stunning Second World War story that opens the book is a masterpiece of ambivalence--about the simultaneous generosity and hypocrisy of Galina, a gentile Russian woman who offers safe harbor to a Jewish friend and her daughter during the German occupation. In "Love Lessons--Mondays, 9 A. M. ," a young math teacher is assigned to teach a girls' sex education class, even though she herself is still awaiting her first kiss. And in "Mistress," a boy newly arrived in this country bears witness to the intimate details of his grandparents' new and diverging lives: his grandmother's doctors' appointments, where he is charged with translating her myriad complaints into English, and his grandfather's clandestine courtship of another woman. Adept at both snapshots and long exposures, Lara Vapnyar, herself a recent immigrant, writes of life's adventures and possibilities, its disappointments and unexpected turns, with delicate humor, brilliant timing, and striking emotional honesty. She is a writer to relish and to watch. From the Hardcover edition.