In 1991, a war began in Yugoslavia that would last four years and claim more than a quarter of a million lives. In her harrowing debut, Courtney Brkic puts a human face on the lost, the missing, the exiled, and the invisible, from all sides of the conflict. She brings to life perpetrators and victims, soldiers and civilians, diplomats and human rights workers. From a man trapped in a cellar as his city is erased by bombs, to a sniper who chooses targets according to his own arbitrary but strictly followed rules; from a husband and wife picking up the pieces of their marriage after the brutality of a detention centre to a man who falls in love with the woman he is spying on; from a war criminal's daughter who is devastated by anonymous hate mail to the unfed animals starving at Sarajevo Zoo.
These are powerfully moving stories, steeped in loss. They give a sharp sense of how war churns up normality, how it scatters our possessions; the stories are full of the emotional fog and bad dreams left behind after atrocities and uprootings.
Courtney Brkic is a graduate of the NYU MFA programme, which she attended as a New York Times fellow. She has been a freelance translator for the UN War Crimes Tribunal, a sociological researcher and contract translator in Croatia (where her family is from), a forensic archaeologist in Bosnia-Herzogovina, and a volunteer for Physicians for Human Rights. She divides her time between Arlington, Virginia, and New York City.