The Scent of Pine: A Novel

The Scent of Pine: A Novel

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by Lara Vapnyar

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“A compelling tale of cultural displacement and yearning” (The Boston Globe), from award-winning author Lara Vapnyar: a “sly and seductive” (The New York Times Book Review) new novel about sexual awakening and the relentless search for love.

Though only thirty-eight, Lena finds herself in the grips of a midlife crisis. She…  See more details below


“A compelling tale of cultural displacement and yearning” (The Boston Globe), from award-winning author Lara Vapnyar: a “sly and seductive” (The New York Times Book Review) new novel about sexual awakening and the relentless search for love.

Though only thirty-eight, Lena finds herself in the grips of a midlife crisis. She feels lost in her adoptive country, her career is at a dead end, and her marriage has spiraled into apathy and distrust—it seems impossible she will ever find happiness again. But then she strikes up a precarious friendship with Ben, a failed artist turned reluctant academic, who is just as lost as she is.

They soon surprise themselves by embarking on an impulsive weekend adventure, uncharacteristically leaving their responsibilities behind. On the way to Ben’s remote cabin in Maine, Lena begins to talk, 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. As Lena opens up to Ben about secrets she has long kept hidden, they begin to discover together not only the striking truths buried in her puzzling past, but also more immediate, passionate ones about the urgency of this short, stolen time they have together.

“Enchanting…vivid and rich” (The New York Times), filled with Lara Vapnyar’s characteristic empathy, deadpan humor, and striking honesty, The Scent of Pine weaves themes of ambition, loneliness, longing, and the fickle nature of desire into a “book of elegant writing and propulsive storytelling” (Chicago Tribune).

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The core of this tale by Russian-born and New York City-based Vapnyar (Memoirs of a Muse) is Lena's experience during her time as a counselor in a Russian summer camp. Through flashbacks, she is portrayed as a breast-beating ugly duckling, despairing of ever evolving into a Leda. Years later, now living in America, Lena has not changed much despite time, marriage, and motherhood. At a conference, she winds up spending an impulsive weekend with Ben, a stranger who is also sexually and romantically stymied. As though telling a rip-off Shahrazad tale, Lena regales Ben with the story of her mysterious camp experience, every detail repeated with unrelenting precision, even though it took place decades earlier. VERDICT Plodding, without depth or sincerity, forced and robotic, Vapnyar's latest isn't for readers who enjoy feel-good stories.—Joyce Townsend, Pittsburg, CA
“Vapnyar gives us a modern Scheherazade, weaving literary allusions, sexual repression and awakening. . . into a darkly funny, lonely love story evoked by the landscapes of Russia and Maine. . . Readers of literary fiction will want to try this surprisingly quick read.”
New York Times bestselling author of The Lotus Eaters - Tatjana Soli
"Sharply observed, darkly humorous, and sexy, Vapnyar weaves her tale of mid-life crisis and coming-of-age like a modern-day, Russian Scheherazade."
author of The Mothers and Something Red - Jennifer Gilmore
"Lara Vapnyar has always written vividly and with a droll sense of humor about personal liberty. In The Scent of Pine Vapnyar takes that singular voice to a new level as she examines a singular character's release from her past and her consequential sexual liberation. The Scent of Pine is an important novel that questions-and miraculously answers—what it really means to be free."

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Simon & Schuster
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Meet 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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The Scent of Pine: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
IngaKS More than 1 year ago
My review: When Simon & Schuster offered me a review copy of The Scent of Pine by Lara Vapnyar, I was intrigued. Partially because the author is originally from my neighbouring country Russia and partially because of the blurb of the book. The plot seemed promising. The Scent of Pine tells a story about Lena who is closing 40 and she has reached a point in her life when she needs to let go some parts of her past and to take a retrospective journey. Her marriage is a mess, she has difficulties with settling in at her new country and her work life is dissatisfying as well. During a conference she meets Ben, an artist gone academic. There is an immediate attraction between Ben and Lena and when Lena is offered to take a ride back to Boston with Ben, they end up at Ben's cabin. The more time they spend with each other, the more secrets are being revealed. Lena opened up and discovers herself through Ben. If you are looking for a book filled with wild romance and action, you will be disappointed. It's not that kind of book. It's definitely about passion and love, yes! It's also a story about intimacy. But mostly about sexual liberation and letting go of the past. It's a story about two people discovering themselves through each other. And even though the spacing is slow, it's beautiful! The story flows like a river. The pacing is in my opinion slow, but interesting. It seems like the time stops while the intimacy of relationships are folded out in front of the reader. Of course, since I was born and raised in the Soviet Union, I might be able to relate to many things what Lena is sharing with Ben. But that's not the most important reason why I liked the book. I savoured the writing style, it was humorous and little bittersweet. Lara Vapnyar is a sharp storyteller leaving lot of thoughts in between the lines. I loved that there was space for my own thoughts while reading.