Still Here @ Novel by Lara Vapnyar

Ultimately, the description on the back cover failed to capture the full essence of this book, a book that envelops so many deep, emotional topics while creating characters that such a broad range of readers can connect to. A job well, well done by author Lara Vapnyar.

Rating – 3.85 stars, rounded to 4 stars

First published August 2, 2016

  • Paperback Edition released May 2, 2017

The back cover of this paperback book describes this novel as four Russian immigrants leading “very different lives in New York City.” Sergey, whom cycles through jobs is trying to develop an app designed to preserve a person’s online presence post-mortem. “Spurring questions about the changing perception after death and the future of our virtual selves.” Given this description, I picked up a copy thinking I could relate to my father, whom is an electrical engineer and has worked on apps and similar projects before, while still enjoying the underlying fictional story as well. What I didn’t know is how much I would enjoy the story, relate to the characters and develop perspective on my own virtual self and real life relationships.

The author, Lara Vapnyar, wrote this book about Russian immigrants, all of which met each other in school and developed relationships with each other along the way. Each of the friends moved to America at different points in their lives, but kept close and navigated the new country perils together. Despite never having been to Russia and being an American citizen myself, I found I deeply related to the struggles and internal negotiations each of Lara’s characters encountered. For instance, Sergey, although almost 40 years old, struggles to find a job that suits him, while keeping him engaged and motivated (what new college grad doesn’t struggle with this?). Vica, a medical student in Russia forced to take a lower job in America given her lack of an America degree, just wants to go back to school but cannot afford it (a classroom is my happy place, but student loans are a real thing so I can all but relate to Vica’s feelings). Meanwhile, you are so drawn to Lara’s characters, you are also forced to ponder life after death, even if it is only virtually, and how social media plays such a role in our lives both alive and maybe even in death.

The author brings up so many relevant issues and does a unique job in making a book that connects to both a young and old population. In fact, I can’t help but agree with her when she states in her later interviews that the baby boomer population is the first generation to live two lives: a real life and a virtual life. What will be our online legacy and what will be our real life legacy?

Ultimately, the description on the back cover failed to capture the full essence of this book, a book that envelops so many deep, emotional topics while creating characters that such a broad range of readers can connect to.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from “Blogging for Books” in exchange for an honest review.

  • Stayed tuned for my next Blogging for Books review: Evicted by Matthew Desmond

 

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