“Here, I practice, and you practice.”
There is a small sense of doom following you throughout this story. No, gloom. The expectation of Things Go Wrong. Tanner continues to walk the thin line between ‘Oh No Look Here It Comes’ and keeping the reader comfortable. After all, this is just a small story about two immigrant children who find comfort in each other, right?
Even after finishing it, I don’t know if I can answer that question. There are hints about something slumbering underneath Vaclav and Lena’s struggle to fit in with the other students, to learn English and be American instead of Russian, even though everything they know is just that. Lena talks very little, while Vaclav has a very concerned and interested parent. He dreams of becoming the next Houdini and she dreams along with him, because she doesn’t know what else to dream about.
But than something happens and the two are unraveled, have to learn to leave as separate people. The curtain is slowly pulled open, but never completely, leaving space to ponder what happened. And more importantly, what you want to have happened, because the options are open.
Vaclav & Lena is a small and silent story that will sneak underneath your skin.
Vaclav & Lena, Haley Tanner, Heinemann 2011