Girl at War by Sara Nović
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2015
Source: Copy provided by the publisher
The Short Version:
Ana Jurić has her childhood interrupted by the civil war in Yugoslavia and 10 years later and half a world away is still struggling with it.
Why I Read It:
I have a co-worker who lived in Sarajevo during the siege and this story sounded too eerily familiar to her life.
From the publisher:
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.
One of my co-workers lived in Sarajevo during the siege of the mid 1990’s. Her stories of sniper fire as a daily way of life are chilling. When I first heard about this book there was much of the story that sounded so similar to my co-worker that I knew right away I wanted to read it.
The story begins in the early 1990’s when Ana is a 10 year old whose childhood is shattered by the civil war. Then it shifts to ten years later when she is a college student in Manhattan only a couple of months after the 9/11 attack. She’s kept her past a secret. Ana decides to return to Zagreb and the story continues to shift back and forth in time, gradually filling in what happened to her and at the same time what she faces when she returns to the city that still feels like home.
I loved this book. The raw emotions and the horrors that Ana went through as a child were brutal. As an adult she is in a country where most people know very little about the war that changed her life.
This is a book and characters that will stick with me for a long time. Perhaps more because I know someone who experienced the horrors of the Yugoslav wars but also because Sara Nović has written a wonderful book.