If Still Here is recognizable as a particular type of modern comedy, it also feels fresh and special...All sides and facets of the diamond are examined, yet the stone as a whole remains inscrutable, its surface reflecting questions that gleam back at each of us: How do you want to spend your days; what truly matters in this life? Apps aren’t the only way to outlast death, of course — art can accomplish the same trick, and Still Here deserves a long and happy life of its own.
The apps and nonstop social media updates are new, but otherwise Still Here is a brisk and amusing reboot of the familiar immigrant tale. Culture clashes, loneliness and mishaps in love and work fill the foursome’s days. Ms. Vapnyar throws in a bit of existential dread for spice. The novel jumps along episodically toward its implausible happy ending, a little in the way of a TV series. Think Friends with a heavy Russian accent.
It [the book] concerns a group of four Russian friends, Vadik, Regina, Vica, and Sergey, who have immigrated to New York. They are highly educated, work in the tech industry, and are professionally well connected ...conflicts in this cleverly plotted and often amusing novel are mostly about loss, death, and alienation ...the most satisfying pages in this novel are the ones about Moscow ...tapped into a vivid and engaging world with my friend Marta in her Moscow kitchen ... The novel has many funny moments like this one. But since finishing it, I’ve mostly been thinking about its more serious implications. Perhaps the virtual grave that really concerns us is not an app for immortality, but technology itself.
The book, like each of Vapnyar’s key players, is not without its faults. It’s a fresh take on an old theme, but it is nevertheless an old theme, and one that uses some old tropes—about New York City, about immigrants, about social media, etc. And there are points at which it feels more beach-read than smart satire...Such shortcomings aside, Vapnyar ultimately offers a literary representation of the way we live now. She shows us America, the beautiful and absurd, managing to satirize it without ever losing sympathy for the people living in it, and certainly not for her four main characters.
The story raises intriguing questions about life and death in the age of technology. Vapnyar’s story is infused with a somber tone. Although it is a story about immigrants, the novel also poses a more universal question: How does anyone establish identity and contentedness (in an adopted country or otherwise) once a bright future has lost its shine?
...[a] quietly affecting new novel ... The paths to their stories are winding, but Vapnyar’s humor and perspective keep the reader rooting for these strangers in a strange land who, despite their travails, are 'still here,' still Americans, still kicking, screaming and struggling their ways to individuation.