Excerpt from Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Vaclav & Lena

A Novel

By Haley Tanner

Vaclav & Lena
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: May 2011,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2012,
    320 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Lena looks at the lighter she stole from the pocket of the Aunt's robe. Lena knows it is not right to steal unless you need something really badly, and the person is not home, and won't even realize the thing is missing. Stealing the lighter felt scary, and it felt good, and brave. Lena feels very brave with the lighter in her hand, very grown-up.

"Why you are the boss always?" Lena asks.

"For one thing, I am magician and you are assistant. Assistant is second to magician. There is no assistant without magician," says Vaclav.

"Without assistant, no magician," says Lena.

"I am one year older than you," says Vaclav.

"Ten is only little more than nine and eleven months," says Lena.

"Magician is more important than assistant, because..." says Vaclav, getting ready to say one more thing to prove that he should have authority over Lena. He wants to win this argument, even though he knows they will have this argument again.

This fight is a fight they have over and over again. It is like the famous argument between the chicken and the egg, about which came first, and which one is more important and better than the other. This fight is never resolved, because it is impossible to prove which came first or which is better when actually both things are the same thing.

There is a knock on the door. Lena and Vaclav look at the door with wide, terrified eyes. There are three loud knocks, and then the doorknob jiggles but does not open, because the door is locked.

Vaclav is filled with regret. Locking the door was a terrible idea. A locked door indicates to Vaclav's mother that something illicit may be happening in the bedroom of the young magician. "Vaclav! Open the door right now or I'll open it for you! You wanndo this hard way or the easy way?"

Lena and Vaclav shove their magic things under the bed, hide them behind the eyelet-perforated dust ruffles of the bed skirt.

"Coming, coming!" says Vaclav, scrambling to his feet. As soon as Vaclav unlocks the door, it bursts open, pushing him backward.

Rasia's eyes search the room. Rasia doesn't know what she is looking for, but all the time she is worried. Every day at ten past five she rushes home as fast as she can, because her son is growing and changing every second and she has only so many hours to mold him like clay. She has only so many hours to show him that it is important to do homework, to have dinner like a family, to not do drugs or to steal or to be a lazy person or a cheat. She must protect him from pedophiles, from strangers, from bullies, from guns, and from carbon monoxide poisoning. She is worried, because he comes home to an empty house after school; he is what they call the latch-key kid, and she is a working mother, and they live in an urban area, and Vaclav attends a crowded public school, and all these things are the ingredients of disaster, if you are listening to the news, which she is, carefully, vigilantly, always to see what next to be afraid of.

"I do not like what I see here. What is going on here when I am not home?"

"Nothing! We are doing nothing! Homework. We are doing nothing but homework," Vaclav says.

"Nothing and homework for three hours? This I do not believe. I want to see all homework after dinnertime." Rasia backs away toward the door, keeping her eyes on Lena. She's worried about Lena because of the well-known occupation of the Aunt. This is unfair and also fair at the same time.

"Okay, nothing and homework and, also, maybe a little practicing the magic act," Vaclav says. Rasia steps back into the room.

"Maybe a little practicing the magic act?"

"Actually, yes, we are practicing the magic act," Vaclav says, trying to look earnest. "Maybe, also, if it is okay with you, because all homework is done, maybe..." Vaclav looks up at his mother, and Rasia looks down at her son, at this dancing around what he wants, at his Velcro sneakers digging nervous little circles in the carpet.

Excerpted from Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner. Copyright © 2011 by Haley Tanner. Excerpted by permission of Dial Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Coney Island

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.