Title: Still Here
Author: Lara Vapnyar
Genre: contemporary fiction.
Is this part of a series? No.
Published: May 2nd 2017
Four friends met in Russia before embarking on their grand adventure- immigration. Vica and Sergey, so very much in love, had great ideas of how their lives would be. Putting medical school aside for the moment, Vica supported Sergey through business school only to watch her genius husband shuffle from one job to another- losing one job after another. This was not their dream! Now they have a young son and Vica has a job that she can’t love. Sergey? Sergey has ideas- a dream, an app, to bring a voice to the dead using their old social media presence. Vica just wants him to succeed in something- she wants to be able to afford things for Eric, to watch her husband succeed… the life she dreamed of.
Vadik was a friend of theirs in Russia- Vica’s ex infact. When he immigrated for work, they were all together along with their friend (and Sergey’s ex) Regina who married an American business man, Bob. This book ties the lives together, showing how one’s perception of events often colors how you see others as well. Their past, present, successes and insecurities come into display as they each struggle to find their way in the land they had all dreamt of landing in.
It’s easy to get caught up in this story- in the lives of these four very different people that are tied by their past. As I read there would be little clues to each character- fleshing them out, making them more unique and multifaceted. Sergey, always having been told he was a genius, comes to America to find that he can’t figure out how to fit in and succeed in this very different world of business. The brilliant mind is seen as unmotivated, lacking in skills, goals, control… just lacking. He sees condemnation everywhere, especially in Vica. Vica, on the other hand, hates who she becomes because of her dissatisfaction with their lot. She hates that she shows Sergey the worst parts of her- that husband and wife are so close that it can’t be hidden. Regina, once a renowned translator like her deceased mother, hasn’t been able to pick up a book since coming to America. She is lost and lonely, with only these three and Bob. She doesn’t want “hobbies” she wants something meaningful but nothing seems to fit. Often she finds herself unmotivated, unlovable. When it comes time to revisit Russia, she must come to terms with who she and her mother really were, and what she really wants. Vadik is the programming nomad, trying on different hobbies, attitudes, women and apartments as the mood strikes; never really satisfied. On his first day in America, he feels like he met his ideal- and lost her the next morning. Reading through each characters thoughts, fears, triumphs and failures gives you a sense of knowing. I have known these four forever. I feel them, deep in my heart. Each character is an unholy mess in and of themselves, but has so much beauty too. The fact that they are flawed, and so very human, allows for you to fall deep into the story line.
I liked how they used the character’s online presence, and their feelings for Virtual Grave to help shed light on each one. Regina was the watcher, empathizer, by stander. Vadik had an app for every mood- several online dating profiles where he tried to fit into the desires of the women that he felt he deserved. An app to help him with his hobby of “molecular cooking” a twitter handle where he could quote great writers and be profound, but also make fun of the world. Vica, only sharing the most happy and beautiful moments in life- here, at least, is the life she thought she would have. Sergey, would find interesting articles and discussing them, posting links on his Facebook page. He found himself constantly waiting for inspiration. There are so many little gems in here, turn of phrases that I adored or that allowed for deeper understanding of each character. The end seemed a bit rushed and open ended to me, but I think that was purposeful. Each character has a new adventure. Honestly, there was very little I didn’t love about this book. For me, this was a five star book. I received my copy of Still Here from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.
On the adult content scale, this is obviously geared toward a mature audience with language and sexual content. I give it a seven.
To illustrate how very highly I recommend this book, I present to you my copy:
Each tag is a turn of phrase I loved, a part that made me feel, or a another aspect of a beloved character.
The book is out, what are you waiting for?
Link to book: