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Novelist tells story of Russian immigrant friends

Brooklyn BookBeat: Author to Speak in Cobble Hill

July 28, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Author Lara Vapnyar will speak in Cobble Hill on Aug. 2. Photo by Stepan Pachikov
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Lara Vapnyar, an author described by The New York Times as “exquisitely sensitive to the shifting vagaries of emotion,” will appear at BookCourt in Cobble Hill on Tuesday, Aug. 2 (7 p.m., 163 Court St.) to speak about her book “Still Here” with Yelena Akhtiorskaya, author of the critically acclaimed debut “Panic in a Suitcase.”

“Still Here” follows four friends — Sergey, Vica, Regina and Vadik — who met in Russia in their school days, but remained in touch and now have very different lives in America. They are in their mid-30s, and the pressures of daily life are bearing down on them.

Sergey cycles through jobs as an analyst, hoping his idea for an app will finally bring him success. His wife, Vica, a medical technician struggling to keep her family afloat, hungers for a better life. Sergey’s former girlfriend Regina, once a famous translator, is married to a wealthy start-up owner and spends her days at home holed up in a sweeping Tribeca loft, curtains drawn, watching television and eating takeout, grieving over a recent loss. Sergey’s best friend, Vadik, a programmer ever in search of perfection, keeps trying on different women and different neighborhoods, all while pining for the lost love of his life.

When Sergey hones his app idea — he calls it “Virtual Grave,” intended to give a digital voice to those who have died — it sparks a formidable debate in the group, spurring questions about the changing reality of death in the modern world: How do our online personas define us while we’re still here, and what will they say about us when we’re gone? Death is inevitable, but can we achieve a sliver of virtual immortality by controlling our post-mortem messaging?

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As the four friends share the many rises and falls of their love lives, the struggles of being immigrants in a still-new city, their professional successes and misfortunes and their hopes and fears for the future, they consider the meaning of life, each discovering a newer, fuller way to exist in the now.



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