From Publishers Weekly
Canadian Galloway (Ascension
) delivers a tense and haunting novel following four people trying to survive war-torn Sarajevo. After a mortar attack kills 22 people waiting in line to buy bread, an unnamed cellist vows to play at the point of impact for 22 days. Meanwhile, Arrow, a young woman sniper, picks off soldiers; Kenan makes a dangerous trek to get water for his family; and Dragan, who sent his wife and son out of the city at the start of the war, works at a bakery and trades bread in exchange for shelter. Arrow's assigned to protect the cellist, but when she's eventually ordered to commit a different kind of killing, she must decide who she is and why she kills. Dragan believes he can protect himself through isolation, but that changes when he runs into a friend of his wife's attempting to cross a street targeted by snipers. Kenan is repeatedly challenged by his fear and a cantankerous neighbor. All the while, the cellist continues to play. With wonderfully drawn characters and a stripped-down narrative, Galloway brings to life a distant conflict. (May)
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Inspired by Vedran Smailovic, the cellist who, in 1992, played in a bombed-out Sarajevo square for 22 days in memory of the 22 people who were killed by a mortar attack, this is a novel about four people trying to maintain a semblance of their humanity in the besieged city. Kenan trudges across the city to collect water from the brewery for his family; on his way to buy bread, Dragan meets an old friend who reminds him of life before the war; Arrow, a sniper fighting against the occupation, is charged with keeping the cellist alive; and the cellist himself, in his simple act of performing, courageously brings a touch of life back to the citizens. Although Galloway’s characters weigh the value of their lives against the choices they must make, he effectively creates a fifth character in the city itself, capturing the details among the rubble and destruction that give added weight to his memorable novel. --Elliot Mandel