Four people struggle to stay alive in war-torn Sarajevo, remembering the simple pleasures of their old routines as they settle into horrifying, desperate new ones.
On a day during the brutal siege of Sarajevo—an occupation that ultimately lasted years and claimed tens of thousands of lives—a mortar attack kills 22 people waiting for bread as a once famous cellist watches from his window. In tribute, he decides to play his cello in the street for 22 days, which will likely get him killed, given the hordes of snipers waiting in the hills above the city. But Arrow, an angry young female sniper, is cryptically assigned to protect him. As she stalks his potential killers, she begins to confront her own rationale for murder. Meanwhile, two ordinary citizens try to survive another day in the hell that Sarajevo has become. Kenan, a young father, traverses the ravaged city in search of water for his family and, as a favor, for a neighbor. The only safe haven for clean drinking water is a brewery across town, and the trek is both difficult and dangerous. On the journey, Kenan passes the tragic remains of his old life, including the office building, now burnt down, where he used to work and the park, now unsafe, where he used to spend time with a friend. Meanwhile, Dragan, a middle-aged baker, runs into an old acquaintance as he goes searching for bread. The two literally dodge bullets as they make their way through the streets. As violence rages in a city whose vibrance now lives only in the memories of its dying residents, the cellist continues his beautiful act of defiance, playing on through the bullets.
Indelible imagery and heartbreaking characters give authority to this chilling story and make human a crisis typically overlooked in literature.