Aside from the atrocities that hit you in the face early on in this book, something else stood out to me in the story of the Jurić family. Unlike other books, the action happened at the top of this book and then the rest of the pages were spent in working towards the healing of the main character and the place she calls "home". It's rare that we see the climax upfront and traditionally readers are pulled through a story by the promise of future action. I found myself being powered by the desire to see Ana's wounds healed and to see a nation mourn and eventually perservere.
Nović's ability to portray such pain and desperation in her debut novel is incredible, and proves to me that we're going to see so much more from her. Her fluid ability to tell a story while bouncing around the narrative timeline did not only feel like that of a seasoned writer, but it really intensified the urgency and horror of the Croatia-Serbia genocide. It also showed just how the consequences both big and small of the violence will (and have) reverberated through generations and the globe.
Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbors grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.
New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.
Moving back and forth through time, Girl at War is an honest, generous, brilliantly written novel that illuminates how history shapes the individual. Sara Nović fearlessly shows the impact of war on one young girl—and its legacy on all of us. It’s a precocious debut by a writer who has stared into recent history to find a story that continues to resonate today.
Available on May 15th!
*Note: This advanced reading copy was given to me by the publisher, Penguin Random House. All opinions expressed in this review are wholly my own. Bear Allen cannot be bought! *