From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Bosnian-born Hemon (The Lazarus Project
) again beautifully twists the language in this collection of eight powerful and disquieting stories. The 1992 Bosnian war colors in the background of all the tales, whose settings range from Africa to Chicago and Sarajevo. Arranged chronologically, all but one feature a Hemon-like narrator named Bogdan, first met as a surly teenager during his diplomat father's assignment in Zaire, where he's happily corrupted by a degenerate American espionage agent. In each successive story, Bogdan recalls the surreal and salient experiences of his life: his youth with his ironically depicted family; his early determination to be a poet; his accidental sojourn in America, where he was caught after the commencement of hostilities in Bosnia; and his return to a cesspool of insignificant, drizzly suffering, where he has a transformative night interviewing a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer. Hemon arranges words like gems in a necklace. A necktie is stretched across the chair seat, like a severed tendon; a car is stickered with someone else's thought; a character's teeth are like organ pipes. Writing with steely control and an antic eye, Hemon has assembled another extraordinary work. (May)
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"Steeped ... in male ego [and] sexuality" (Houston Chronicle
), Hemon's wry, robust, and entertaining stories bring to light the immigrant's hunger for identity -- caught between two worlds but truly belonging to neither -- and the writer's hunger for validation. Poised between two worlds himself, Hemon's vantage point and marvelous flair for the English language yield deliciously sardonic cultural observations and ask insightful questions about the meaning of family and home. Critics were especially moved by his portrait of his eccentric father and the growing chasm between father and son. Though the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
considered Hemon's subject matter trite and uninspired, most critics, in spite of a few complaints -- including some awkward language, a sporadic anti-American undercurrent, and forced connections among stories -- were pleased by Hemon's return to familiar terrain.