Two good reads I reccommend: Running Away to Home: Our Family’s Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came From, and What Really Matters by Jennifer Wilson and The Notice by Sean Chandler.
The first is written by a wife/writer/mom of two young kids from Des Moines, Iowa who ‘drags’ her family to Mrkopalj, Croatia seeking a connection to her ancestors that emigrated from there 100 years ago as well as a connection to her immediate family away from the “American dream”. Running Away to Home is an insightful tale of their time in a small (population less than 1500) Croatian town that could probably be compared fairly to Appalachia, USA. Mrkopalj is located in the mountainous region of Gorski-Kotar, “The Green Heart of Croatia”. The author shares an acquaintedness not easily attained. First-hand experiences while not all enviable (such as eating puh/varmint, sheep brains and balls) are certainly appreciated. Check out the author’s blog for some great photos, including the puh (aka giant rat)!
The Notice is a novel based in Bosnia in 1992 as war surrounds the fictional town of a young girl who witnesses and courageously contends with the changes that create fractions and bring war to her home town even before the arrival of bombs and militia. The novel is based on actual accounts and is framed in a way that presents interesting historical information.
Perhaps it oversimplifies a very complex conflict, as probably do most fiction and non-fiction books on the subject, but it clearly depicts the realities of its horrors. A good introduction for me, I’d like to read more but need to lighten my reading list for now.
I tried to find a fun read that doesn’t involve war, when I came across The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman. After reading the following excerpt of a Q+A with the author, I was hooked. A beautiful story of love and loss, I am really glad I read and I highly recommend it.
I had been hoping to write a novel where I could explore an artist’s experience during WWII and the Holocaust. So I started to do research about how certain real life artists were still able to create, even under these horrific and dangerous circumstances. But I didn’t know how I was going to frame the novel. Then one day I was getting my hair cut at a local salon, and I overheard the stylist next to me telling a story he had recently heard from another client. It was about a woman who had recently attended a wedding where the bride’s grandmother and the groom’s grandfather had not met previously. At the rehearsal dinner the night before, the groom’s grandfather insisted he knew the bride’s grandmother “from somewhere.” At the end of the evening, still convinced that he recognized her (despite her denials), he asked her to roll up her sleeve. There the six-number tattoo from Auschwitz was inked into her skin. He looked at her again, this time more closely. Studying her face one more time, he said: “You were my wife.”
So we are in Venice and just happen to be staying at the home of the author and Venetian historian Andrea di Robilant. He kindly left a copy of his A Venetian Affair: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century on the bedside table for us to read. After just reading the introduction, Kevin and I are quite intrigued.
We are staying on the island of Giudecca, the ‘biggest – though off the beaten track – island of Venice’. We’ve figured out how to take the vaporetto or water bus, but need to go now to buy passes for the week. We’ve managed a few free rides but I now I fear the Carabinieri! We’ve been told that there will be a national strike tomorrow, but have been assured that the vaporettos have to provide service to Giudecca – just not as consistently – but hopefully we will not be stranded.
Here’s a few pics of our cozy place decorated with fine Venetian furniture, maps, drawings and of course shelves of books. There are two turtles in the backyard and a jujube fruit tree. Oh, and there’s a bin of Legos in the boys’ room!