This isn’t a book review. It’s more a highlight of some things that have kept me thinking about this book.

Girl at War by Sara Nović

Category: novel

Ana, the protagonist, is a ten-year-old tomboy from Zagreb, Croatia. The former Yugoslavia has fallen into civil war.

Ana’s childhood ends abruptly when she witnesses her parents die and barely escapes herself—a scene that made my stomach feel like a lead ball. And that was even with my husband asking me a question right in the middle of the scene. (Sigh.) I wonder if interrupting someone at a crucial point in a book is the origin of “talk to the hand”.

Anyway, with the help of friends, an American peacekeeper, and foster parents in Pennsylvania, Ana finds a new home in the U.S. The book picks up with Ana many years later, attending New York University when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur and the U.S. goes to war.

Since Ana has spent relatively equal portions of her life in Croatia and America at this point, she offers an interesting perspective on what a country at war means in America compared to in Croatia. Her character talks about how for most Americans the war is more an idea than an experience. It happens elsewhere. You could go about your business and forget it for days.

In Croatia, it controlled almost every decision and movement. Cut supply lines could mean you didn’t eat. While you slept, your house might be bombed, or someone unwelcome could come busting through the door.

Since Ana said “most Americans” don’t experience a traditional war firsthand in this day and age (and I’m super glad of this) it made me think of those who do. Who are they? And do we notice them enough?

I think of 1) people in the military, 2) those who work for humanitarian organizations, and 3) journalists. And of course, their loved ones at home have a different experience—that of worrying about them. Do you know someone who has experienced it firsthand?

On the lighter side: Has someone interrupted you at a crux point in a book? What were you reading?