Title: The Scent of Pine
Author: Lara Vapnyar
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Number of Pages: 192
How I Got It: NetGalley
Though Lena is only thirty-eight, she finds herself in the grip of a midlife crisis. She feels out of place in her adoptive country, her career has stalled, and her marriage has tumbled into a spiral of apathy and distrust—it seems impossible she will ever find happiness again. But then she meets Ben, a failed artist turned reluctant academic, who is just as lost as she is. They strike up a precarious friendship and soon surprise themselves by embarking on an impulsive weekend adventure.On the drive to Ben’s remote cabin in Maine, Lena begins to open up, 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 growing equally unsettled, with unexplained disappearances and mysterious goings-on among the staff; Lena and her best friend are haunted by what they witnessed, or failed to witness, and by the fallout from those youthful relationships. It was a time of intense emotions, confusion, and passions, and ultimately very little turned out to be exactly as it seemed.As Lena reveals to Ben secrets she has long kept hidden, the lovers begin to discover together not only the striking truths buried in her past, but also more immediate lessons about the urgency of this short, stolen time they have together. A stirring, sexy, and breathtaking novel with an unforgettable twist, The Scent of Pine is both a poignant love story and a provocative tale of loneliness, longing, youthful romanticism, and the fickle nature of desire.
I requested this novel because I'm always interested in women's midlife crises. I like that most of these types of novels focus on how the woman has "had enough" and is now "going to put herself first." This novel alternates between Lena discovering her sexuality at camp and having a sexual re-awakening when she steals away for the weekend to a cabin in Maine. Not a comfy, cozy cabin but a cabin with no heat and no toilet. Not exactly condusive to wild romance. As Lena confides her memories of being a camp counselor, there is an undercurrent of fear. Missing soldiers, scared children, and aliens, (yes, aliens) pepper the stories she tells Ben. The climax is expected to be startling and shocking but instead is just a series of sad twists and false memories.
I would not recommend this book.
** I received this book in exchange for an honest review **