A boy survives the 1992 siege of Sarajevo and finds refuge, if not peace, in North America.
Jevrem Andric is 11 when his family endures four years of “the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern war.” Depicting their suffering through Jevrem’s eyes, Rudolph uses remarkable historical research to craft a deeply affecting psychological portrayal of the cost of war upon one boy, his family and the society they are later thrown into. His mother is Croatian, a pianist; his father is Serb, an activist and journalist. In short time the family goes from protesting in the street and playing concerts to starving in a basement without medicine. Jevrem witnesses rape and sees his friends killed. Half his family, which includes his war-hero Communist grandmother, an older brother, and two younger sisters, dies in the war, a fight among “Muslim paramilitaries, Croatian paramilitaries, the JNA, Serbian police, and irregulars.” The dead haunt Jevrem after his escape to Canada, where he gets high and robs people in Toronto with fellow refugees who dub themselves “the Bastards of Yugoslavia” because “it’s what the nationalists who took over our country” called children of mixed parentage. Rudolph deeply inhabits Jevrem, a highly intelligent teen with PTSD, modulating the prose subtly as the boy ages, showing great restraint as a stylist in order to let the effects of war drive each scene. After a brutal stint in juvenile detention, Jevrem finds himself once again in an idealistic family placing hope in revolution, ending a story sure to make readers tremble at the cost of war paid by children “scattered across the world, figuring things out, finding stuff to do, forgetting and remembering, trying to get by.”
A first-rate novel about the horrors of nationalism, as moving as it is instructive in its historical import.