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be involved in a newly created duo with the violin-maker. Henry's retrospective narration, which describes a family still intact, makes it evident that Beth never leaves in search of a different life. Readers will keep reading to see why she stays and how her secret affects the family, especially Henry. History is a dominant theme in the novel and is a preoccupation that the Shaws all have in common. One of the major incidents in the story occurs during a family trip to Shiloh to watch a Civil War reenactment in which Elvira is participating. Comparing his adulterous mother to General Robert E. Lee, Henry decides that both were suffering from "ambiguous loyalty." In the end, Hamilton uses history to unite the Shaws in an intriguing and haunting way. Disobedience may not win as many fans as Hamilton's two Oprah Book Club selections, The Book ofRuth and A Map of the World. Nevertheless, Hamilton writes compellingly about loyalty and familial bonds. (MS) The Question ofBruno by Aleksandar Hemon Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2000, 230 pp., $22.95 Living in Chicago, Bosnian Jozef Pronek constantly encounters people who do not understand the war in his homeland. '"What's with you people?'" one friend ofhis roommate asks. '"Can't you chill out?"' His girlfriend 's parents think he is from Czechoslovakia; her grandmother thinks he's from Boston. He is fired from his job at a sandwich shop because he doesn't sufficiently care about the difference between iceberg and romaine lettuce. He returns to Sarajevo, and while walking through the crumbling city, he has a fantasy of his own death: "I topple over and bang my head against the pavement, but there is no pain, I am surprised. And right in the line ofmy rapidlyfaintinggaze there is the rose, still warm,filled up with the blood oozing out ofmy head. But I could never imagine the moment of death, I could never imagine vanishing, so my imagination staysfixed on the rose." "Blind Jozef Pronek & Dead Souls" is the novella that lies at the heart of The Question ofBruno, a first book by Bosnian-born Hemon. These memorable stories evoke the Sarajevo of Hemon's childhood, the Chicago that he immigrated to and the subtlety and intricacy of his newly learned English. Several of Hemon's protagonists are immigrants. Forced to watch their homes destroyed nightly on CNN, they struggle to make sense of their new lives while constantly aware that the people they love are dying far away. In "A Coin," the narrator, who is living in the U.S., receives sporadic correspondence from his friend Aida back in Sarajevo. She sends pictures of herself in front of "what's left of the Library" and explains that she's cut her hair short to make her head a smaller target for snipers. He.replies in letters that he knows will probably not reach her. Hemon also writes of growing up in Tito's Yugoslavia, where uncles talk of Stalin's prison camps and fathers are arrested and sentenced to hard labor for traffic violations. In "The Sorge Spy Ring," a young boy grows up believing that his father's frequent business trips to the Soviet The Missouri Review ยท 177 Union make him a Communist spy. His father's arrest turns a childish fantasy into something "palpable." The story's annotations about the life of Communist spy Richard Sorge sometimes take up more space on the page than the narrative itself. AU of the stories are linked, with characters and events from one story interwoven into the next. Hemon quietly leads the reader through a chaotic world full of despair, yet tinged with hope and humor. The fluidity of Hemon's English, which he learned in the past five years while he was already writing, brings life and meaning to objects and situations both familiar and alien. The narrator in "Islands" wakes up in a strange bed unsure of where he is and says, "I got up, out of my nonbeing, and stepped into the inchoate day." English-speaking readers will find themselves going to the dictionary for definitions of the English words Hemon uses, only to find that they...


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pp. 177-178
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