Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Discuss the relationships between storytelling, lies, and magic in Vaclav & Lena. How do these concepts interact in the novel’s
2. Lena’s disappearance is a sore point between Vaclav and Rasia. Do you think Rasia made the right choice by remaining silent about it?
3. Early in the book, Vaclav has a tremendous amount of confidence in himself and in his future as a magician. Do you think this is merely naïveté, or is it a necessary attribute for someone to make their dreams come true?
4. Discuss the challenges of immigration in the book. How does language play a role in assimilation for Vaclav and Lena? How does Rasia try to connect with her Americanized son?
5. Rasia and her husband, Oleg, seem to have had very different experiences in immigrating to America. What factors have contributed to this difference in their experience?
6. How would you describe the dynamics of Vaclav and Lena’s relationship at the start of the novel? How do those dynamics shift when Lena becomes friends with the popular crowd and Vaclav volunteers to do her homework for her? How do they shift again when Vaclav and Lena reconnect as teenagers?
7. Discuss the novel’s settings. How does the Russian émigré community of Brighton Beach have an effect on Vaclav and Lena? How does the fantastical world of Coney Island?
8. How would you describe the nature of Rasia’s relationship with Lena?
9. In reporting Lena’s situation to the authorities, is Rasia acting solely in Lena’s best interest, or might she be acting to protect
10. Why do you think Vaclav, at seventeen, resists sex with his girlfriend?
11. Discuss the chapter headings. How do they interact with the rest of the text?
12. How does Lena’s trauma manifest itself when she is a child? A teenager? Do you think her wounds can be healed?
13. Ekaterina tells Vaclav that she did the best she could for Lena. Do you think this is true?