Review: Vaclav & Lena – Haley Tanner

Vaclav and Lena have one thing in common, they are both children born in Russia and brought to America at a young age, thus making them of an American genre (according to Vaclav’s Mother). At 10 years old they are best friends, they both love magic and care fondly for one another, but that’s where the comparisons end, because no matter how much their lives intertwine, they also run parallel incidentally.

Vaclav and Lena come from two different sets of families in their story, properly named “Vaclav & Lena” written by Haley Tanner. Vaclav who is the product of two parents that are seemingly different, his Father drinks and is insensitive at times and his Mother is the complete opposite, she’s loving, attentive and extremely involved in his whereabouts and coming and goings. On the other hand, we have Lena who has no information about her biological parents, she has been relocated between an older ladies home and her Aunt’s home, which is nowhere suitable for a child. Her circumstances are dire at times, but she finds solace in spending afternoons with Vaclav planning their magic tricks and performing them for Vaclav’s parents. Vaclav envisions himself as being the next Houdini, Lena is practicing to become the best assistant in the whole world, she aspires to be like Heather Holliday. I was unaware of who Heather Holliday was so I looked her up on google and sure enough she’s a sword swallowing assistant to a magician.

Their goal of making it big on Coney Island in front of million of admirers comes to an immediate halt when Vaclav’s endearing Mother, Rasia goes to check in on an ill Lena and sees something that changes everything. Without explanation, everything changes in both of their lives and they are forced to go out into the world without one another by their side which seems daunting to them both.

The story then jumps seven years and we are reintroduced to teenage Vaclav and Lena who are now grown up and are searching for some sense of direction. It doesn’t matter what direction their lives have taken over the years, they still think of each other often, to the point where Vaclav has to talk himself out of saying goodnight to her even though he hasn’t physically seen her in years.

This is a story of two young children, then teenagers who are both trying to make sense out everything happening around them. It is a love story for the books that will make you tear up a couple of times and cause you to cheer them on at every success they both achieve. It’s told with a backdrop of NYC, which only makes it that much more magical.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Vaclav & Lena – Haley Tanner

  1. Jenna (Literature and a Lens) says:

    I haven’t heard of this book before, so thanks for spotlighting it! I like that it deals with magic without being magical realism, which seems very popular these days. I don’t know the time period, but it’s nice to see Coney Island written about in all it’s strange glory. Great review!

  2. miriam abrahams says:

    I just finished reading Vaclav & Lena and thoroughly enjoyed the story. As an immigrant born to immigrant parents and the mother of creative artistic kids, I totally relate to Haley Tanner’s comments. Kudos on your first book, mazal tov to you and your parents for your success! I am looking forward to more!

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