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The Scent of Pine

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In her newest novel, award-winning author Lara Vapnyar—“a talented writer, possessed of an ample humor and insight and a humane sensibility” (The New York Times Book Review)—tells a provocative tale of sexual awakening, youthful romanticism, and the relentless search for love. Throughout her acclaimed, award-winning career, novelist Lara Vapnyar has consistently impressed c In her newest novel, award-winning author Lara Vapnyar—“a talented writer, possessed of an ample humor and insight and a humane sensibility” (The New York Times Book Review)—tells a provocative tale of sexual awakening, youthful romanticism, and the relentless search for love. 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.

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In her newest novel, award-winning author Lara Vapnyar—“a talented writer, possessed of an ample humor and insight and a humane sensibility” (The New York Times Book Review)—tells a provocative tale of sexual awakening, youthful romanticism, and the relentless search for love. Throughout her acclaimed, award-winning career, novelist Lara Vapnyar has consistently impressed c In her newest novel, award-winning author Lara Vapnyar—“a talented writer, possessed of an ample humor and insight and a humane sensibility” (The New York Times Book Review)—tells a provocative tale of sexual awakening, youthful romanticism, and the relentless search for love. 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.

30 review for The Scent of Pine

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chaitra

    I didn't believe this book. Not the story, not the construct. The whole thing was forced, unsubtle. Ben and Lena were uninteresting, unlikable as two cheating people would be. There isn't much in the way of redeeming qualities to either of them, because they're undeveloped. Lena's story of a supposed coming of age in a summer camp in Russia is boring. Nobody changes, nothing happens. The final reveal is forced too. What are the odds that Ben would be carrying a graphic novel describing the entir I didn't believe this book. Not the story, not the construct. The whole thing was forced, unsubtle. Ben and Lena were uninteresting, unlikable as two cheating people would be. There isn't much in the way of redeeming qualities to either of them, because they're undeveloped. Lena's story of a supposed coming of age in a summer camp in Russia is boring. Nobody changes, nothing happens. The final reveal is forced too. What are the odds that Ben would be carrying a graphic novel describing the entire thing, even the bits Lena herself didn't know? This makes Lena's story is not only boring, but also superfluous - Ben already knows the story and doesn't think much of it when it's in comic book form. I'm sure the idea is to signify Lena had a light bulb moment about her marriage, but it was on its last legs anyway. She also doesn't make any decision about letting him go, nothing. I also didn't get what was so profoundly wrong with her husband, other than that she was bored with him. Ben is a non-entity, a ear for Lena's story. All the other characters are just mirrors for Lena, but the problem is that Lena is such a flimsily drawn character that they don't show anything. There's nothing compelling about this story, or the story within it. 2 stars, only because I was too busy searching for a point to get offended about the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Kiernan

    The New York Times raved about this book not once, but twice, in 12 days. And I am mystified. The central character (and narrator) lacks a single sympathetic attribute. She even makes adultery dull. The narrative is relentlessly static: a train, a snooze of a scholarly conference, a car ride. Things get really saucy when someone does something crazy like go for a walk. What the reader is left with, therefore, is talk. There's an overarching story, broken into pieces to flesh out this already thi The New York Times raved about this book not once, but twice, in 12 days. And I am mystified. The central character (and narrator) lacks a single sympathetic attribute. She even makes adultery dull. The narrative is relentlessly static: a train, a snooze of a scholarly conference, a car ride. Things get really saucy when someone does something crazy like go for a walk. What the reader is left with, therefore, is talk. There's an overarching story, broken into pieces to flesh out this already thin novel. But if you put the pieces together, they don't make much. Only a preposterous coincidence late in the book makes them worth the telling. In fact the sole listener to the story loses the thread, ignores passages and eventually falls asleep. I wish the language was recompense, but it's flat. I wish the description of childhood life in Russia was sufficiently exotic, but it's just a summer camp with brutally predictable adolescent longings and drama. Skip this one.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Gavin

    I know I should give the author a bit of a break b/c English is not her first language. The book is pretty darn impressive from that perspective. However, I was irritated by a couple of first person narrative slips during the third person narration. At times when Lena is telling Ben her camp story, it is in first person but the rest of the book is not. I also found ALL of the characters unlikeable, even Lena. Why is she so unhappy with Vadim, for example? Once I know who he really is, I was even I know I should give the author a bit of a break b/c English is not her first language. The book is pretty darn impressive from that perspective. However, I was irritated by a couple of first person narrative slips during the third person narration. At times when Lena is telling Ben her camp story, it is in first person but the rest of the book is not. I also found ALL of the characters unlikeable, even Lena. Why is she so unhappy with Vadim, for example? Once I know who he really is, I was even more irritated. Plus she and Ben have had affairs before (of course), which makes them seem weak. If they're so unhappy, why be so deceitful vs. honest? And the book ends abruptly. Will Lena and Vadim carry on as before? Will she keep in touch with Inka (also a character I could not like--at camp or in the present)? Does Ben stay with Leslie, although he does not love her?! I didn't like the hedgehog pussy/sex stuff, either. Too crude for me. Maybe I should have given this 2 stars?!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jo Dervan

    Two academics meet at a conference. Lena is a Russian emigree and 38 year old married woman. Ben is a failed artist turned academic engaged to a woman who broke up his first marriage. They are attracted to each other and after she accepts a ride home to Boston, they end up spending a romantic weekend together at his rustic cabin in Maine. The pine trees in Maine reminds her of a summer working in a childrens camp in Russia. So she begins relating the story of that summer to him and in the proces Two academics meet at a conference. Lena is a Russian emigree and 38 year old married woman. Ben is a failed artist turned academic engaged to a woman who broke up his first marriage. They are attracted to each other and after she accepts a ride home to Boston, they end up spending a romantic weekend together at his rustic cabin in Maine. The pine trees in Maine reminds her of a summer working in a childrens camp in Russia. So she begins relating the story of that summer to him and in the process, learns some things about herself. The story unfolds slowly and there are several surprises as the 2 unhappy people share confidences.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Tanuj Solanki is 8% done with The Scent of Pine: Strangely reminiscent - only in tone and language - of Olga Grushin's novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov. And that is enough to have me pining(!) for this 2014 release

  6. 5 out of 5

    Inga

    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 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Change was slow to spread across Russia after the fall of communism: “In 1989, Perestroika, and the sexual revolution, had yet to reach summer camps and pedagogical colleges,” and 18-year-old camp counselor Lena, the main character in Lara Vapnyar’s new novel, “The Scent of Pine,” was fervent in protecting her 29 charges from sexuality and “the dangers of masturbation.” However, Lena began to discover her own sexuality that summer, leading to a series of adventures — and questions — that will ha Change was slow to spread across Russia after the fall of communism: “In 1989, Perestroika, and the sexual revolution, had yet to reach summer camps and pedagogical colleges,” and 18-year-old camp counselor Lena, the main character in Lara Vapnyar’s new novel, “The Scent of Pine,” was fervent in protecting her 29 charges from sexuality and “the dangers of masturbation.” However, Lena began to discover her own sexuality that summer, leading to a series of adventures — and questions — that will haunt her well into her adult life. Fast-forward 20 years: Lena has immigrated to the United States and feels trapped in a lonesome marriage and unfulfilling career. In many ways she has remained the timid, questioning young girl from camp: unsure of her footing, yet determined to find love. While traveling to Maine with her lover, Ben, Lena tells him the story of her summer at camp and the two tales — one past, one present — blend together, forming a narrative around the fleeting nature of happiness and the shame — and joy — of desire. While there are a number of poignant moments in this coming-of-age meets-midlife-crisis novel, “The Scent of Pine” suffers from repetition, making it feel much longer than its slim 180-pages. With so much time focused on Lena and her personal struggles, the novel’s other characters (especially her doltish lover) remain underdeveloped, existing only as blurry background against Lena’s constant brooding. It’s never clear why Lena is with Ben, other than out of convenience, making Lena’s confessions of love and admiration seem just as childish as her camp romances. Part “Before Sunrise” and part “Hear Now Then” by Jamaica Kincaid, “The Scent of Pine” may have been more successful as a novella, or a short story even: shedding the weight of unnecessary scenes and placing the focus on development, not description. This book was reviewed for The Cedar Rapids Gazette. Read more of my reviews at www.laurafarmerreviews.com

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    I went into this book very intrigued about the main characters past and was excited to learn why her summer as a camp counselor bothered her as much as it did. Lena is in the midst of a mid-life crisis, her career isn't where she thought it would be, her relationship with her husband is falling apart and she feels lost. During an academic conference she meets Ben and is oddly drawn to him, the pair share a ride home and embark on a weekend long affair at his cabin in the woods of Maine. Lena beg I went into this book very intrigued about the main characters past and was excited to learn why her summer as a camp counselor bothered her as much as it did. Lena is in the midst of a mid-life crisis, her career isn't where she thought it would be, her relationship with her husband is falling apart and she feels lost. During an academic conference she meets Ben and is oddly drawn to him, the pair share a ride home and embark on a weekend long affair at his cabin in the woods of Maine. Lena begins to share the story of her summer as a camp counselor during their drive and once at the remote cabin the woods help her to share her story. Ben helps her to reconcile her memories and bring about a new awareness of what happened. And here is my biggest issue with this book, nothing really happened. Lena alludes at the beginning that she was a femme fatele, she was anything but that. The mysterious disappearances were never that mysterious and the spooky stories the kids shared, not that spooky. This camp sounded boring and awful. Lena's revelation to Ben regarding her husband was also no mystery - she knew the truth all along. The graphic novel that Ben shared that brought about all the revelations was also to much of a coincidence. My other issue was the relationship between Lena and Ben, I didn't feel the connection and the way it unfolded felt sort of forced. Once at the cabin the drawings they made disgusted me. Ben came off like a dirty greasy old man, sort of a predator, I doubt their relationship will continue. I found this book to be pointless, when I finished I felt like there really was no story at all. I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for a fair reveiw

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Ugh. I saw this book reviewed positively in the New York Times and thought it sounded wonderful. 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. I saw this book reviewed positively in the New York Times and thought it sounded wonderful. 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 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Chance

    I choose this book to be my first book to read in 2014 - I wasn't disappointed in my choice! "The Scent of Pine" is a enthralling novel that is both sensual in nature and unsettling in the background story of the character's tortured past. 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 2014 - I wasn't disappointed in my choice! "The Scent of Pine" is a enthralling novel that is both sensual in nature and unsettling in the background story of the character's tortured past. 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 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mike Heenan

    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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gail M

    Maybe 2.5 ....rather improbable coincidences fundamental to the book and serial adulterers who are not so interesting for their willingness to live unhappily and deceitfully.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nanci

    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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    plot is too tidy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy Plonka

    A little to esoteric for my taste.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    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. 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 1980s. I'd enjoyed Vapnyar's 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. 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 1980s. I'd enjoyed Vapnyar's short story collection, "There Are Jews In My House," and I wish now that I'd purchased her other set of short stories. 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 7,000 words, perhaps. Even as a small, 180-page novel, this story was stretched too thin. Protagonist Lena basically tells the backstory to her lover, Ben, in clunky, expository dialogue. 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. 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. They were all found and/or accounted for relatively quickly in the past. 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. Meh. A very low 3 stars, if I'm feeling generous.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Mullarkey

    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 1980s, 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 1980s, 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 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    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. 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 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. As the two delve deeper into their pasts, Ben sheds light on truths Lena failed to see in her youth. The story moves along slowly with two people that feel the thrill of forbidden attraction (Lena is married with children, Ben has a girlfriend) and it alternates between the present and the past as Lena tells her story to Ben. This flows well enough, but I wasn't pulled in until the tail end. That is where everything comes to a head and hard truths are exposed about her own marriage and many mysteries about the camp are shed once and for all. The book hits you at the end when her relationship with her husband turns out to be a different story than what she believed. The best thing about the book is how it reminds us that sometimes our memories (truth, fiction) alter with the wisdom of age and hindsight. Sometimes it takes someone else to open our eyes to the mysteries that left us confused in our youth. I liked this novel, even if it was slow going.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    First off, I received this book from the First-reads giveaway here on Goodreads, and it was one that I signed up for without really reading what it would be about, honestly. I glanced over the summary and thought it looked interesting enough to sign up for. Basically, I had no idea what this book would be like, and quite frankly, I was a little surprised when I started reading it, simply because-as I reiterate- I didn't actually read the summary very well. For a book that essentially glorified adu First off, I received this book from the First-reads giveaway here on Goodreads, and it was one that I signed up for without really reading what it would be about, honestly. I glanced over the summary and thought it looked interesting enough to sign up for. Basically, I had no idea what this book would be like, and quite frankly, I was a little surprised when I started reading it, simply because-as I reiterate- I didn't actually read the summary very well. For a book that essentially glorified adultery in some scenes, which is really terrible in my opinion, the aspect of the characters telling the story of their teenage years for about 65% of the book was really interesting. And although there were some graphic things briefly mentioned, I am so, so very glad that the author chose not to describe any of the sex scenes. They weren't necessary at all, and I'm glad that the author recognized this fact and left it all "up to the imagination" as my parents would say. Learning about a Russian summer camp for kids from a young Russian woman counselor.. That was a story I'm not sure I ever thought I would read, but it was very interesting, and the twist at the end was fun. I'm not sure I like how it ended. It wasn't bad... It just left the story hanging, somewhat.. Over-all, I enjoyed this book for it's story flow and writing quality, but I really don't appreciate the fact that it somewhat glorifies adultery.

  21. 5 out of 5

    P.e. lolo

    The main character in this story is named Lena and she is at a convention of sorts of soviet writers, poets, artists and other people waiting to share or find out more about the Soviet life. Lena is by herself on this trip, her husband and two boys are back in California visiting his parents. As she meets some of the people, a few of the more the more well-known people she knows having grown up together. She begins to look back on her life and mostly on one summer where most of them were camp co The main character in this story is named Lena and she is at a convention of sorts of soviet writers, poets, artists and other people waiting to share or find out more about the Soviet life. Lena is by herself on this trip, her husband and two boys are back in California visiting his parents. As she meets some of the people, a few of the more the more well-known people she knows having grown up together. She begins to look back on her life and mostly on one summer where most of them were camp counselors at a soviet teenager camp for a summer. She decides to leave and meets a man who is also leaving and tells here he could give her a ride to Boston. He is going to Maine so it is on the way. She agrees and they strike up a conversation and by the time they get to Boston she decides to go to Maine with him. Once there she starts talking about her time at this camp and different memories, he talks about when he was married but mostly listens. He then shares with her a book that he came across a few years back and it turns out was written by one of the young boys at the camp and it answered some of the questions she had from that time. This is a book about her trying to figure out her past but also where and what she wants to do with her future as well. A good story a little slow in some places but overall ok.I got this book from net galley.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jae

    What a bizarre little book this is. I read one of her collections of short stories, liked it, and was looking forward to reading this on that basis, but one of the very things that made her short stories come alive for me (the very internal, reflective style of her narrators) made this fall completely flat. First of all, it became clear that Vapnyar does a lot of internal narrative stuff because she's not very good at writing realistic dialogue. So there's that. But the story itself was just rea What a bizarre little book this is. I read one of her collections of short stories, liked it, and was looking forward to reading this on that basis, but one of the very things that made her short stories come alive for me (the very internal, reflective style of her narrators) made this fall completely flat. First of all, it became clear that Vapnyar does a lot of internal narrative stuff because she's not very good at writing realistic dialogue. So there's that. But the story itself was just really, really strange in both structure and content, the characters ranged from not-quite-all-the-way-there to completely undeveloped (even the narrator), and the ending felt like she was saying "oh my god, how do I tie up alllll of these loose ends without taking another hundred pages? better throw as many convenient plot twists at it as possible!!!" And there was lots of sex, but it was all really bizarrely (and unsexily) written, like Vapnyar was constantly heading toward it at full-speed and then veering abruptly away from it. Two stars because it's not (at all) irredeemably bad--in fact I think it could have even been good with some restructuring and some investment in some of the minor characters (the men, mostly, but not exclusively) to make them not feel so much like plot devices. And because the narrator's children were Borya and Misha, which amused me greatly.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    This novel about a young woman who immigrated to America from her native Russia disappointed me. The story alternates between the present of Lena going to speak at a conference while her husband and children go to the west coast to visit his family with flashbacks back to Russia to a summer during her college years where she worked as camp counselor. The present day story is somewhat interesting, her speech is a disaster but she meets a fellow speaker, they become friends and decide to drive hom This novel about a young woman who immigrated to America from her native Russia disappointed me. The story alternates between the present of Lena going to speak at a conference while her husband and children go to the west coast to visit his family with flashbacks back to Russia to a summer during her college years where she worked as camp counselor. The present day story is somewhat interesting, her speech is a disaster but she meets a fellow speaker, they become friends and decide to drive home from the conference together. During the drive, the Russian flashbacks take the form of Lena telling Ben about her camp experiences. The flashbacks become more intense as Lena and Ben begin their affair. The flashbacks become whiny in Lena's telling and the supposed suspense never grabs the reader. The ending where the "mystery" of the camp summer is resolved by a completely unbelievable tie with one of Ben's graphic novels that conveniently happens to be in his getaway cabin where they are staying. The ending did not tie the stories together as much as it confirmed that Ben and Lena and their stories do not have the depth to make the reader care

  24. 5 out of 5

    Selina Boatright

    I couldn't wait to receive "The Scent of Pine" by Lara Vapnyar. Thank you Simon & Schuster and Ms. Vapnyar--I won this book from Goodreads. I have read other books by Lara Vapnyar, and this one certainly did not disappoint. I felt that the main characters were very credible. A few scenes in the book had me laughing out loud. One scene is when Lena sees a sign on a fence that states, "KEEP THE WILDLIFE WILD!" and her interpretation of it. Throughout the book, Lena is telling Ben a story about s I couldn't wait to receive "The Scent of Pine" by Lara Vapnyar. Thank you Simon & Schuster and Ms. Vapnyar--I won this book from Goodreads. I have read other books by Lara Vapnyar, and this one certainly did not disappoint. I felt that the main characters were very credible. A few scenes in the book had me laughing out loud. One scene is when Lena sees a sign on a fence that states, "KEEP THE WILDLIFE WILD!" and her interpretation of it. Throughout the book, Lena is telling Ben a story about summer camp, and I found that I wanted to keep reading to hear more of her story. Simultaneously, throughout the book, the two main characters (Lena and Ben) make a connection, really open up to each other, and discover things about themselves. I do believe in coincidences and was glad that Lena was able to put some of her youth experience into perspective through a variety of coincidences. She now had the life experience to make what happened in her youth understandable to her. This was a pleasure to read and very entertaining. I will definitely recommend it to others!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rhiannon Johnson

    I requested this novel because I'm always interested in women's midlife crises. I like that most of these types of novels focus on how the woman has "had enough" and is now "going to put herself first." This novel alternates between Lena discovering her sexuality at camp and having a sexual re-awakening when she steals away for the weekend to a cabin in Maine. Not a comfy, cozy cabin but a cabin with no heat and no toilet. Not exactly condusive to wild romance. As Lena confides her memories of b I requested this novel because I'm always interested in women's midlife crises. I like that most of these types of novels focus on how the woman has "had enough" and is now "going to put herself first." This novel alternates between Lena discovering her sexuality at camp and having a sexual re-awakening when she steals away for the weekend to a cabin in Maine. Not a comfy, cozy cabin but a cabin with no heat and no toilet. Not exactly condusive to wild romance. As Lena confides her memories of being a camp counselor, there is an undercurrent of fear. Missing soldiers, scared children, and aliens, (yes, aliens) pepper the stories she tells Ben. The climax is expected to be startling and shocking but instead is just a series of sad twists and false memories. Read my full review here: http://www.ivoryowlreviews.blogspot.c...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This writing in this book is adequate but the novel was grossly unstructured and under developed. It had no substantial story line. The book flap promised dual story lines inter twining past and present but nothing mysterious took place in the Russian Camp but some kids bed wetting and much teen sex in the woods. Nothing new there. The flipping back and forth between past and present was inconsistent and difficult to follow. There is some weird mention of aliens (WHY?) I agree with other reviewe This writing in this book is adequate but the novel was grossly unstructured and under developed. It had no substantial story line. The book flap promised dual story lines inter twining past and present but nothing mysterious took place in the Russian Camp but some kids bed wetting and much teen sex in the woods. Nothing new there. The flipping back and forth between past and present was inconsistent and difficult to follow. There is some weird mention of aliens (WHY?) I agree with other reviewers the characters were shallow, under developed and boring. The love scenes were cliche and gratuitous. The explicit language used seemed unnatural as well. I only finished this book because it was so short. I am sure the author is talented and capable of more solid writing however.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Meridith

    Thank you Goodreads & Dana from Simon & Schuster for the free copy of this book and thus the opportunity to read it. I won a copy of this in a Goodreads giveaway, so yay !!!! My first !!! THE SCENT OF PINE was a pleasure to read, and I will look forward to reading more of Vapnyar's work - again this was a first ! It's a story about passion, love and intimacy. But mostly about sexual liberation and being able to let go of the past. It's a story about two people who discover good in themsel Thank you Goodreads & Dana from Simon & Schuster for the free copy of this book and thus the opportunity to read it. I won a copy of this in a Goodreads giveaway, so yay !!!! My first !!! THE SCENT OF PINE was a pleasure to read, and I will look forward to reading more of Vapnyar's work - again this was a first ! It's a story about passion, love and intimacy. But mostly about sexual liberation and being able to let go of the past. It's a story about two people who discover good in themselves through each other. I very much enjoyed the main character of Lena. Her past was intriguing and her relationship with Ben, interesting. I will certainly recommend this fine book !

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    Dissatisfied academic facing early midlife crisis has weekend affair with fellow academic she meets at conference, tells him stories about the summer she spent as a camp counselor in Soviet Russia twenty years before. Skip this and read Vapynar's collections There Are Jews in My House: Stories or Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love instead. You'll thank me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    The story of two lonely people - cheating on their significant others - going on a weekend jaunt. Their actions bringing on the truths of their lives, while telling each other stories of their childhood and past experiences. By the end of this book I was ready for it. I spent most of the book waiting for more, as the story unfolded in a so so way. A couple small twists towards the end, which I enjoyed, but too little, too late. Too many pages of stretching out a mediocre story for this to be a b The story of two lonely people - cheating on their significant others - going on a weekend jaunt. Their actions bringing on the truths of their lives, while telling each other stories of their childhood and past experiences. By the end of this book I was ready for it. I spent most of the book waiting for more, as the story unfolded in a so so way. A couple small twists towards the end, which I enjoyed, but too little, too late. Too many pages of stretching out a mediocre story for this to be a book I would recommend.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I found this book touching and real. I read it almost straight through. While a bit older than Lena, the emotions she feels about her marriage, her life, and the possibility of an affair felt very true to me. I liked the way the author interwove the story of her past with the journey of the present. The writing gives a strong sense of place. A favorite few lines, "She felt guilty about her encounter with Ben. Not just guilty but pathetic, because the only thing she could be guilty of was her des I found this book touching and real. I read it almost straight through. While a bit older than Lena, the emotions she feels about her marriage, her life, and the possibility of an affair felt very true to me. I liked the way the author interwove the story of her past with the journey of the present. The writing gives a strong sense of place. A favorite few lines, "She felt guilty about her encounter with Ben. Not just guilty but pathetic, because the only thing she could be guilty of was her desire to be guilty." I know that exact feeling. I'm excited to read some of her other work, now.

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