Ana Juric`, a ten-year-old living in Croatia's capital has had a happy childhood until civil war breaks out and her life is transformed by food rationing, soldiers, and air raid drills. Suddenly life is very different and she feels out of control. The daily peace she felt is replaced with fear and uncertainty except when she is nestled together with her family:
That first time we saw it, my mother and I together, she patted my shoulder because these men were protecting Croatia and the fighting didn't look too dangerous. She smiled and the soup steamed, and even Rahela wasn't crying for once, and I allowed myself to slide into the fantasy I recognized as such even while my mind was still spinning it- that there in the flat, with my family, I was safe. (29)
The war circles around the Juric` family but at home there is a greater concern. Ana's younger sister, Rahela, is sick and needs medical attention. After visiting a female doctor in Zagreb Ana's family makes the difficult decision to get Rahela transported out of Croatia to America where she will recieve the treatment she needs. As Ana and her parents mournfully drive back to Zagreb they are stopped by a roadblock of Serbian soldiers. It is at this moment that Ana's life will be forever changed and as it is with tragedy it makes her into the womas we later meet in New York.
Her predictable life studying in NYC has her on edge and she can't accept all that has happened to her. She is at war with herself, trying to resolve what she experienced. She makes a rash decision to travel back to Croatia to see if friends are still alive and to make peace with how her life has been shaped.
This is a transformitive story. I enjoyed Ana's voice, her family struggles in New Jersey, and the difficult time she has with feeling comfortable after living, surviving a war where so many died. Girl at war shows how resilent we are while making us fully aware of the damage caused by tragedy and war. It is a story of survival. And we all need to read more of that.
It also brought to light this conflict for me. In my small town we had an influx of Bosnian residents during this conflict. They've succeeded in our community in many ways, been accepted and embraced, but it also makes me wonder what lies underneath. Thank you, Ana, for this reminder; realizing the harm we do while fighting wars abroad and on our own streets would be a worthy reason to keep the peace.
On sale: May 12th, 2015 (go buy it now)
Thank you to @DavidEbershoff at Random House for my copy. My time-wasting habit of scrolling around twitter totally worth it when I'm able to scoop up an excellent book. It also in no way altered my review of this book. I loved it all on my own.