Five aid workers with divergent agendas drive a truck loaded with supplies into the heart of war-torn Bosnia.
Author, doctor, and humanitarian activist Rufin poses a moral dilemma in the midst of this war novel/road adventure. The book opens on a tense scene between Maud, a young French idealist whose worldview has clearly been shattered, and Marc, a former soldier who's convinced her to join him on his mysterious mission. From there, we flash back to the road where a group of aid workers is driving two 15-ton trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies from Lyons to an unsafe zone in Bosnia. Virginal Maud enjoys driving the big truck but is a bit overwhelmed by her companions, who include Marc; his friend Alex, who returns to Bosnia seeking the girl he left behind; Lionel, the conflicted head of the mission; and Vauthier, a profane, overweight lout who strikes Marc less like a humanitarian and more like a cop. It’s winter in Bosnia, and the book uses the harsh weather and the group’s tension to create a dire, desperate mood. It’s Alex who voices the book’s moral challenge. “Once you’ve spent some time with these people…you no longer see things the same way,” he says. “In fact, they don’t give a damn about what we can bring them….They’re really tough.” The central question here is what is the best way to help victims of conflict? Rufin voices this query in a well-written coda: “What do the ‘victims’ need—to survive or to win?” It’s eventually revealed that Marc has chosen a side, seeding the humanitarian supplies with high explosives to help a Croatian faction blow up a bridge. But by the time his ruse is revealed, Maud has fallen in love with him, and Vauthier is in pursuit. This mix of well-crafted characters, psychological suspense, and the harsh realities of life in wartime results in a nail-biting, challenging literary thriller.
A novel of war that asks hard questions about what decency demands of us as human beings.