Vaclav and Lena
A timeless love story set in New York's Russian emigre community from a stunningly gifted young novelist.
Vaclav and Lena seem destined for each other. They first meet as children in an English-as-a-second-language class in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Vaclav, who dreams of becoming a famous magician, is precocious and verbal. Lena, struggling with English, takes comfort in the safety of his adoration, his noisy, loving home, and the care of Rasia, his big-hearted mother. Vaclav imagines their story unfolding like a fairy tale, but among the many truths to be discovered in Haley Tanner's wondrous debut is that happily ever after is never a foregone conclusion. When Lena is not around Vaclav and his parents, her world is unsafe. Her poor language skills isolate her. She lives with a mostly absent, neglectful aunt, and has no connection to her parents, who she believes are still in Russia. Then, one day, Lena does not show up for school. She has disappeared from Vaclav and his family's lives as if by a cruel trick. For the next seven years Vaclav always says goodnight to her, wondering if she is doing the same somewhere. On the eve of Lena's seventeenth birthday he finds out.
Haley Tanner has the originality and verve of a born storyteller, and the boldness to imagine a world in which love can overcome the most difficult circumstances. In Vaclav & Lena she has created two unforgettable young protagonists who evoke the joy, the confusion, and the passion of having a profound, everlasting connection with someone else.
"In this charming and wonderfully engaging tale, the reader is swept into the beautifully rendered landscape of the immigrant childhood experience. Haley Tanner has created a world peopled with characters of great poignancy and they will linger in the mind - and heart - long after the book is put down." - Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge
Haley Tanner lives in Brooklyn. This is her first novel.