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The Cellist of Sarajevo

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A bread line in besieged Sarajevo. A mortar lobbed by Serb soldiers on the hill. Death for 22 people. A cellist sees it all and determines to honor the dead--and perhaps assuage his own pain--by playing Albinoni's Adagio on the spot for 22 days. And so Galloway opens his first novel, inspired by true events, weaving together four lives to tell the awful story of Sarajevo's devastation. Aside from the cellist, there's Kenan, who risks his life every few days to carry plastic canisters to the brewery and retrieve water for his family. Dragan, who got his family out before the bombs started falling, works at the bakery for, literally, his daily bread. Both must cower on street corners and watch those who risk crossing get shot or killed. Arrow, who uses an alias, is a sniper desperate to defend her city and just as desperate not to compromise her humanity by hating the men who rain death down on the city. In the end, each takes a stand, small or large, to assure that the "Sarajevo that [they want] to live is alive again." Galloway writes simply and affectingly, occasionally resorting to cliche and just as often hitting a sweet, clear note that makes the siege of Sarajevo very real. For most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/08.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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