For people who want to be better people, for people who have never learned about the ethnic cleansing that took place in the 90s in Bosnia & Herzegovina, for a memoir of the extremes of emotion — highest hopes and bleakest depressions
Expected Release: September 8, 2020
Amra was a teen in Bihac, Bosnia, when her friend said they couldn’t speak anymore because Amra was Muslim. Then refugees from other cities started arriving, fleeing Serbian persecution. When Serbian tanks rolled into Bihac, the life she knew disappeared—right as a stray cat followed her home. Her family didn’t have the money to keep a pet, but after the cat seemed to save her brother, how could they turn it away? Saving a life one time could be a coincidence, but then it happened again—and Amra and her family wondered just what this cat was. This is the story of a teen who, even in the brutality of war, never wavered in her determination to obtain education, maintain friendships, and even find a first love—and the cat that provided comfort, and maybe even served as a guardian spirit, in the darkest of times.
The moment I saw this book was forthcoming, I knew I had to read it. I always seek to know more about people and the world and experiences that I cannot understand on my own. This memoir teaches facts through the descriptions of events, but can also teach much-needed empathy. The read is an experience in itself.
The summary and title promise that there will be a cat present throughout the story, and she does indeed weave through the pages. Simply called Maci (‘cat’), the cat who accompanies Amra’s family is a beacon of goodness. I believe every instance that happened with this cat, because they are too incredible to be invented. It gave me that kind of wondrous feeling of something more to this world that I don’t often feel. I’m grateful for so much that this book gave me, from knowledge to emotion.
My most important point is that this is a real story that happened. The people exist — existed, in some cases. These horrors happened — and still happen, around the world. You cannot predict what happens next, because this is not a fictional story told to entertain and following a certain path. What you want to happen is not always what happens, because it is real life.
My further warning and promise is that your heart will be broken and mended over and over again. You will be laughing and rooting for Amra and her community, and be horrified in the next moment. It’s not something to hide from, because others never had that luxury. This story is critical in establishing empathy and understanding for a moment in the world that US History classes do not often cover in depth, if at all.
Amra provides an important reminder that even in the worst of times, moments of happiness and love and laughter still exist. These moments are not something to feel guilty about, as it can sometimes feel like they should be in dark situations. They must exist, because humanity adapts to any circumstances to be able to continue living in hope. Without hope, what is there to live for?
Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!