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Comment: All profits go to Housing Works -- NYC's largest HIV/AIDS organization. Minimal wear to cover. Pages clean and binding tight. Hardcover.
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The Scent of Pine: A Novel Hardcover – January 7, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 147671262X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476712628
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Unhappily married Lena meets Ben at an academic conference, and when he offers her a ride home to Boston, she impulsively asks to join him at his remote cabin in Maine. Gradually, Lena unfolds the story of her ill-fated summer as a camp counselor in Soviet Russia, where the boys were told to sleep with their hands on top of the sheets, and Lena and her best friend, Inka, tried to get dates with the soldiers stationed at the camp. But every boy Lena dates disappears. This is no ghost story, at least not in the spooky sense. Instead, Vapnyar gives us a modern Scheherazade, weaving literary allusions, sexual repression and awakening, and Ben’s own pathetic story into a darkly funny, lonely love story evoked by the landscapes of Russia and Maine. Lena’s story is especially vivid, bringing to life a summer-camp experience that is at once universal (smelly kids, awkward flirtations, and the close bond formed in the counselors’ cabin) and uniquely iron curtain (banned books and soldiers). Readers of literary fiction will want to try this surprisingly quick read. --Susan Maguire

Review

“Sly and seductive...A buoyant wit, a sharp-edged Russian melancholy, a fascination with outsiders who long to be insiders...This [is a] slender but provocative novel.” (The New York Times Book Review)

Vapnyar unspools a provocative thread of suspense while charting a compelling tale of cultural displacement and yearning....she writes with searing directness and immediacy, yet she seeds her prose with humor and vivid details...The Scent of Pine shows an impressive gift, not just of language, but of insight into the human condition. (The Boston Globe)

“Enchanting…vivid and rich….Ms. Vapnyar has shown herself to be exquisitely sensitive to the shifting vagaries of emotion, particularly happiness…Each of [her character’s experiences] shimmers with possibility but also carries a creeping sense of dread, sort of like adolescent sexuality itself.” (The New York Times)

Vapnyar can, with a few descriptive strokes, summon images readers will feel keenly....[A] book of elegant writing and propulsive storytelling. (Chicago Tribune)

[A] well thought out, deeply realistic book...Vapnyar has created characters that readers will feel for and a story that will keep them guessing, but has done so with a sustained sense of realism that few novels ever achieve. (bustle.com)

“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.” (Booklist)

Vapnyar’s writing style feels like Lena’s camp—everything seems to be in plain sight, but one can sense deeper truths hiding below the surface. (Kirkus Reviews)

Like the title, promising beautiful sensations, the novel delivers a moody symphony. The characters' experience echoes Chekhov’s Lady with a Lapdog, and like Chekhov, Lara Vapnyar is an astute and loving psychologist, creating a wonderful soul-searching and sensual novel. (Josip Novakovich author of Shopping for a Better Country and April Fool's Day)

"Sharply observed, darkly humorous, and sexy, Vapnyar weaves her tale of mid-life crisis and coming-of-age like a modern-day, Russian Scheherazade." (Tatjana Soli New York Times bestselling author of The Lotus Eaters)

"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." (Jennifer Gilmore author of The Mothers and Something Red)

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Customer Reviews

I found this too wordy and really no plot.
Emma Snow
The writing and characterization are excellent and enhance the story.
Sassy Sue
Brings back the memories... both happy and sad.
Anna

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Scent of Pine offers the reader a slice from a woman's life. Lena (an academic who teaches at a community college) might be too dreary for some readers, but the novel offers a valuable glance at her (dreary) life. Fortunately, the novel is brief and the dreariness is partially offset by Lena's lively stories about her job in a Soviet Union summer camp.

The novel takes place over the course of a few days as Lena tries to "solve the mystery of her present unhappiness." Twenty years earlier, when Lena was a student in the Soviet Union who just met her friend Inka, happiness seemed inevitable. Now, having lived with her husband Vadim in the United States for ten years, happiness seems impossible, particularly when she attends a conference to give a talk on Sex Education in Soviet Russia that nobody attends.

Lena meets Ben at the conference. Ben offers to drive Lena back to Boston and then to his leaky cabin in Maine. Along the way, Lena tells Ben (and thus the reader) the stories of her life. In the process, she explores the nature of happiness, questions why the men in her life (including Vadim) have never made her happy and, as she starts to see her stories from Ben's perspective, begins to reinterpret her past. In turn, Ben tells his stories to Lena. But all stories come to an end and, when a comfortable intimacy begins to connect them, Lena wonders about the ending of the story of Ben and Lena.

Late in the novel, Lena learns the truth (or at least a different perspective of truth) behind some of the stories she's been telling Ben about the Soviet camp. Lena is forced again to reinterpret her own stories while the reader learns how the stories connect to her present life.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By IngaKS on January 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Darian Burns on February 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
“The Scent of Pine” by Lara Vapnyar tells a story about Lena who at 40 has reached a point in her life when she needs to let go, and to take stock, of her past. Her marriage is a train wreck, she has adjustment issues with settling into her new country and her professional life leaves much to be desired. 

While at a conference she meets Ben, an artist and academic. There is an immediate attraction between Ben and Lena. Lena takes a ride back to Boston with Ben but they end up at Ben's cabin. The more time they spend with each other, the more secrets are revealed. Lena opens 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! 

I savored 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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Konstantin Korovyev on May 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I really like Lara Vapnyar as a storyteller. She's a natural, and she has a special gift for capturing nuances of human behavior, especially when people are in love or sexually involved. I always read her New Yorker stories with pleasure, although I also feel that her dialogue is stilted and does not feel real. "The Scent of Pine" works well as a story, a Russian-American novel, I should say. But I struggled with the prose, and particularly so with the dialogue. Dialogue is one of the hardest things to write in a second language, but this is a novel written in English for the American audience, so the dialogue needs to be real and believable. So I have mixed feelings about this novel. Judge for yourselves.
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