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What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: The Cellist of Sarajevo

July 8, 2009

By Kristen Fuhs Wells, communications director for the Indiana Humanities Council

I was embarrassed by how long it took me to wade through All the Kings Men, so I decided to go for something much shorter this time around! Not only did the book’s title and description lure me in, but I have to admit the short length and short size of the pages was a deciding factor. This was a book I could tackle on a vacation.

Author Steven Galloway exposes us to a life many of us can’t imagine–fighting to stay alive as enemy snipers pick off neighbors and mortar shells destroy homes. He does so by employing beautiful imagery in his bloody and horrific descriptions; in his flawed, but human characters; and in the heart of the somewhat-true story–a concert cellist who risks his life by playing his cello for 22 straight days in the middle of the bloodshed, in tribute to 22 lives lost.

Although we know little about the cellist, we find out about three others impacted by his beautiful, selfless quest: a sniper named Arrow sent to protect him; Kenan, a father who traverses the city to get clean water for his family and his neighbor; and Dragan, an older man who sent his family away before the war broke out.

Galloway interviewed several survivors for the book, and it clearly provided excellent background. He captures the fears and desires of his characters so simply, yet so eloquently, that I wasn’t yet ready to give them up when I finished the last page.

It was a fitting read for Independence Day, and made me appreciate my American lifestyle. What books make you appreciate your life? Certainly The Kite Runner is one for me, as is A Thousand Splendid Suns.

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