The Scent of Pine by Lara Vapnyar

The Scent of Pine by Lara Vapnyar
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 7, 2014

Though only thirty-eight, Lena finds herself in the grips of a midlife crisis. She feels lost in her adoptive country, her career is at a dead end, and her marriage has tumbled into a spiral of apathy and distrust—it seems impossible she will ever find happiness again. But then she strikes up a precarious friendship with Ben, a failed artist turned reluctant academic, who is just as lost as she is. They soon surprise themselves by embarking on an impulsive weekend adventure, uncharacteristically leaving their middle-aged responsibilities behind. On the way to Ben’s remote cabin in Maine, Lena begins to talk, for the first time in her life, about the tumultuous summer she spent as a counselor in a Soviet children’s camp twenty years earlier, when she was just discovering romance and her own sexuality. 

At a time when Russia itself was in turmoil, the once-placid world of the camp was equally unsettled, with unexplained disappearances and mysterious goings-on among the staff; Lena and her friend Inka were haunted by what they witnessed, or failed to witness, and by the fallout from those youthful relationships.

As Lena opens up to Ben about secrets she has long kept hidden, they begin to discover together not only the striking truths buried in her puzzling past, but also more immediate, passionate truths about the urgency of this short, stolen time they have together.

My Thoughts: 

I very much enjoyed the character of Lena. Her past was intriguing and her relationship with Ben was interesting. Lena’s friend Inka was also quite alluring. 

The Scent of Pine contained great characters, great settings, and great writing. Unfortunately, those things didn’t add up a great story. 

I kept waiting for the big reveal from Lena’s past. There was a secret that shaped her whole life. It was going to be good. It was going to be shocking. It was…a bust. 

The Scent of Pine had such wonderful potential. Much of the book was engaging. Sadly, I felt that I was promised something that wasn’t delivered.

With that said, I would read other books by Lara Vapnyar. She has a style that draws me in. 

17 thoughts on “The Scent of Pine by Lara Vapnyar

  1. That's too bad, Jennifer. So much goodness, and then . . . flat. The cover is really pretty at least and I'm glad you liked her writing. I will have to check her work out, just maybe not this book.


  2. Oh, booo 😦 I was just eyeing this book on Goodreads and it sounded so intriguing. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts to save the rest of us from a disappointing read.


  3. That sucks. Sometimes authors try so hard and have such great potential in a novel, but if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. That's how I felt about the ending of The Snow Child. I was underwhelmed, thinking it would be devastating but it kind of left me feeling eh.


  4. I feel almost as if we readers are getting a little burned out with the big secret stories. Perhaps secrets were more surprising to us the first hundred times or so…


  5. I HATE that about books that elude to some secret from a character's past… it so rarely lives up to the expectation. Oh well, at least you liked the rest of it!


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