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New Yorker Fiction Review #144: "Waiting for the Miracle" by Lara Vapnyar

Despite the title, this story is not about God.
Issue: April 25, 2016

Story: "Waiting for the Miracle" by Lara Vapnyar

Rating: $$

Review: Started off pretty slow and took me three (3) tries over a week just to get past the first page, but once I did the story finally started rolling. Gonna do this review in bullet points as I have been accused of being overly prolix in my reviews. My accuser? Myself.

  • A great story about those magical, cinematic first few days that happen when a person moves to New York City. And if someone is lucky enough, like the main character Vadik in this story, something pretty interesting happens to make it remarkable, other than just him wandering around the city drinking in bars randomly trying to talk to people with limited success and getting too drunk in the process (ahem).
  • There is a trace of something really interesting and "meta" in this story about the way we perceive ourselves, as when Vadik daydreams about wandering the streets of Manhattan in a tweed blazer and stopping into a bar to read an intelligent-seeming book: "He did want to be seen as a charismatic tweedy intellectual, but it was most important to him to be seen as such through his own eyes."
  • Perhaps the most remarkable passage in the story is the one in which the narrator tells how future Vadik will remember his "encounter" with Rachel over the years, holding onto the sexual memories at first, and then clinging to Rachel as someone he should have kept in touch with, and who might have been "the one" and then finally losing contact even with the memory of her.
Two $$ because the story really did warm up and, even if one has not ever moved to NYC the story, I think, captures the feelings we have about those moments in life that happen maybe a handful of times in a lifetime, that really are significant for all sorts of reasons, but that we wish to somehow make more significant, and whether or not we succeed in that and whether it really matters anyway. 


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