Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Novic lived in Zagreb at the beginning of the civil war in Croatia between Croats and Serbs in the 1990s, and she has based her debut novel on this experience. We first meet her protagonist, Ana, as an ordinary, happy girl, living with her parents and baby sister in a small apartment and riding bikes with her friend Luka through the city. Soon enough, however, people begin to disappear, bombs begin to fall, and the children are plotting their bike routes around traumatized refugees and homemade explosives. The climax of the book comes early, when Ana's family takes a fateful journey to Sarajevo to bring Ana's little sister, Rahela, who is suffering from kidney failure, into the hands of an organization that will send her to the United States for treatment. The story swings back and forth from past to present, tracking young Ana's survival in a war zone that defies comprehension. Dreamy sequences of her time in a safe house reloading guns and of desperate escapes with friends and strangers alike alternate with more recent scenes of Ana in New York City, sleepwalking through her existence in a place she does not feel she really belongs. This is a fine, sensitive novel, though the later scenes in Manhattan never reach the soaring heights of the sections set in wartime Croatia. Novic displays her talent, heightening the anticipation of what she will do next. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Understated, self-assured roman clef of a young girl's coming of age in war-torn Croatia.In this promising debut, Novic tells the story of 10-year-old Ana, for whom "the war in Zagreb began over a pack of cigarettes": sent to fetch smokes for an indulgent godfather, she returns puzzling over the shopkeeper's query whether she wants Serbian or Croatian. A cigarette is a cigarette is a cigarette, until it's not. Then, like everything else, a packet of Filter 160s takes on the powers of shibboleth, something Ana and her best friend, Luka, have to learn, these distinctions not being inborn no matter what the nationalists insist. And imagine what happens, as Ana does, in neighboring Bosnia, "a confusing third category," where people used both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets and probably smoked a third kind of tobacco. The war moves from abstraction to bitter reality soon enough, and Ana finds herself in a swirl of rumor ("Have you heard? The president exploded right at his desk!") and motion, whisked across the continent and thence to America, where time passes and Ana finds herself explaining the world to uncomprehending young people: "I told him about Rahela's illness and MediMission and Sarajevo. About the roadblock and the forest and how I'd escaped.When I finished, Brian was still holding my hand, but he didn't say anything." The tutelary spirits of W.G. Sebald (whom the aforementioned Brian deems "a bit of a German apologist") and Rebecca West hover over the proceedings, and just as West once lamented that everyone she knew in the Balkans of the 1930s was dead by the 1950s, Ana assigns herself the scarifying task of sorting through the rubble of her homeland and reclaiming what can be saved of itand of herself. Elegiac, and understandably if unrelievedly so, with a matter-of-factness about death and uprootedness. A promising start. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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