VACLAV & LENA/ Haley Tanner

Ooh, but this is such a beautiful, beautiful book.

Vaclav & Lena is a debut novel of Haley Tanner and it tells the story of, of course, Vaclav and Lena. Vaclav and Lena are both Russian immigrants in America. They meet in an ESL class in school and they immediately became best friends.  Vaclav is enthralled with magic and he dreams to become a famous magician, so every day, after school, he practices magic tricks,with Lena as his assistant. Of course, every magician has an assistant and Lena certainly fits the bill. Lena is not as keen with magic as Vaclav, but since they’re best friends, she shares this deep secret with him including planning the big magic act. One day, however, Lena does not show up in school. For the next seven years, Vaclav says goodnight to Lena every night and wishes to see her again.

One thing I like about this book is the language. The storytelling is somewhat different because it evolves with the age of the characters. When Vaclav and Lena were both 7 years old, the voice of the storyteller is that of a seven year-old. When they became 17, the narrator’s voice also grows up. It is a very convincing storytelling, I would love to listen to it on audio.

I particularly love Vaclav — his youthful exuberance, fascinating innocence, and his sheer resilience to make his dreams of becoming a magician come true. Lena’s character is deeply mysterious, as intended, although the big reveal towards the end is not as shocking as I expected it to be. Still, I love the character development and the plot. I love the Russian bits of culture, especially the various introspections of Vaclav’s mother about American culture. And the ending. The ending is just marvelously apt.

Ah, but I love everything about this book. This is a perfect book to start this new reading year.

Friends, if you come across this book, please please please pick it up. It is not only entertaining, but it is deeply touching at most.

4/5 stars.

My copy: paperback, a birthday gift from Miss Ronnie (thank you!)

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