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Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway.

I remember sitting in my mother's kitchen in Michigan during the siege of Sarajevo and crying my eyes out as I listened to the news broadcast telling of the shelling of an outdoor market and the deaths of twenty-two people, their only crime having been to choose that time and place to stand in line to buy bread.  Fast forward twenty years, and my pastor just happened to mention in a sermon the courage of a lone cellist in the face of evil, who performed solo twenty-two days in a row on the very site of the shelling, in honor of the victims, and that a book had been written about the brave musician.  I immediately knew I had to get my hands on that book, and my excitement was well rewarded by one of the best-written, most gripping and moving books I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

The book follows the stories of four unique individuals, whose lives ultimately intertwine, without them being aware of this fact.  First there is the cellist himself.  Then there is the father and husband who heads out for water, faces death and narrowly avoids being killed when a mortar shell falls on the area.  There is also the man who heads to the bakery where he works, on his day off, in order to eat there and allow his portion of food at home to go to his relatives.  He, too, nearly dies while crossing a bridge under heavy sniper fire.  Finally, there is the the sniper who works to protect the city and is assigned to protect the cellist.  The book follows a day (or a few days) in the lives of each of these people, condensing into that one short period of time all of the terror, chaos, uncertainty, death, and hope of the people of Sarajevo during the siege.

At first I did not think I was going to like this book, simply because it first appeared that none of the four individuals had anything in common.  Almost immediately, however, I was drawn into each of the four story-lines, and I found that I absolutely could not put this book down.  I ended up reading it in one sitting, something I almost never do.  I was drawn into the four individual's stories so deeply, that I was sad when the book ended.  I wanted to find out what happened next!

I enthusiastically recommend this book, and give it a 5 out of 5.

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