Rated of 5
Fabulous debut novel
I loved this debut novel about two children, born of Russian immigrants and living in modern day America. Vaclav and Lena are childhood friends, both Russian, but with extremely different home lives. As children they bond over Vaclav's dream to be a magician. Unfortunately, there is much more going on with Lena than meets the eye, and one day she essentially vanishes from Vaclav's life.
This book seems influenced by so many others to me - - Like Water for Elephants, Book Thief, and teensy bit of Life of Pi. But the writing style and voice is uniquely Tanner's. You feel that these people are not native English speakers throughout the entirety of the book, yet it still flows beautifully.
There were a scant few chapters, told from Lena's point of view, that I found overdone and slow. But the rest of the book was a delightful gem that at times almost brought me to tears (hard to do).
I'm very anxious for someone else to read it because it definitely has a bit of a hook for book clubs, and I'm curious to discuss it with someone else.
It is worth noting that this book reads a bit like a YA novel . . .but I don't think that is truly intentional. I think it stems more from the fact that the voice is that of an immigrant so the English is necessarily simple.
Also, if there is a better drawn character of a mother than Raisa - - I don't know of her. I fell in absolute love with her as a character, and truly felt that this book was as much a love story about her and her son as it was about the title characters.