‘Vaclav & Lena’ by Haley Tanner

Salt & Pepper, Abbot & Costello, Baskin & Robbins, Mork & Mindy, Vaclav & Lena… all famous pairs. This is a sweet and savoury, simple love story set in the Russian immigrant community of New York City. There is honesty, charm, and a bit of intrigue but more importantly, you get the sense that you are living in the novel.  This is a wonderful, simple summer read, fresh and original. Revel in the vibrant characters and let them take you to that old fashioned place where love still conquers all, but never cheaply or easily. There is a weight and substance to the writing that keeps it totally out of the whimsical and firmly rooted in the real world. The immigrant experience is also very well captured.

Vaclav and Lena are destined to be together but that does not mean that things go along without any obstacles. Life can be cruel and there are unexpected twists and turns for Vaclav the magician, and Lena his assistant. Lena disappears for seven long years, leaving Vaclav to wonder where she has gone and if she will ever return.

This would be a an excellent choice for a book club list. It is very well written, no matter what her writing professor and classmates said. Tanner whipped off the opening pages of Vaclav & Lena late one night for a writing class assignment due the next day. Her teacher and fellow students hated it but she said, forget them, and kept writing the story. I’m glad she did.

A poignant footnote about the author. She dedicates the book to her husband and says he is “on every page”. Gavin died of cancer. He was diagnosed two months before they met. There is a beautiful, but very sad, interview with both of them included in a New York Times article. The video is entitled ‘Love Endures Even Cancer’. It is not for the faint of heart – I would recommend that you view it after you have read the book.
Love Endures Even Cancer

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