ellaminnowpea

The First Rule of Swimming: A Novel - Courtney Angela Brkic This book reminded me of the "women's fiction" version of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena set in the Balkans instead of Chechnya. Both look at the role that twentieth century ethnopolitical warfare plays in the lives and relationships of civilians.

Though the events of the books are very different, the circular structure that dances around between different perspectives and points in time is very similar. We follow Jadranka, a young woman who longs to have a career as an artist, as she leaves her home on a fictional island on the coast of Croatia for her cousin's home in New York. Her sister Magdalena stays behind as a teacher in Rosmarina. The two women have long had a difficult relationship with their mother and were essentially raised by their grandparents. When they were children, their uncle Marin defected to the US to escape the turbulent political culture. He lived with their cousin Katarina and her family for a while before disappearing. One day, Magdalena receives a call from Katarina that Jadranka has also disappeared and must go to America to try to find her sister.

The characters in this book just pop right off the page and it's impossible not to get caught up in their lives and their struggles. They are incredibly empathetic and very multi-dimensional. I recommend this book to anyone -- it really does go broader than most books that get labeled "women's fiction" are assumed to go.