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To the Lake: Book summary and reviews of To the Lake by Kapka Kassabova

To the Lake

A Balkan Journey of War and Peace

by Kapka Kassabova

To the Lake by Kapka Kassabova X
To the Lake by Kapka Kassabova
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2020
    416 pages
    Genre: Travel & Adventure

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Book Summary

The celebrated author of Border explores a mysterious, ancient, and little-understood corner of Europe.

Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa. Two ancient lakes joined by underground rivers. Two lakes that seem to hold both the turbulent memories of the region's past and the secret of its enduring allure. Two lakes that have played a central role in Kapka Kassabova's maternal family.

As she journeys to her grandmother's place of origin, Kassabova encounters a historic crossroads. The lakes are set within the mountainous borderlands of North Macedonia, Albania, and Greece, and crowned by the old Via Egnatia, which once connected Rome to Constantinople. A former trading and spiritual nexus of the southern Balkans, this lake region remains one of Eurasia's most diverse corners. Meanwhile, with their remote rock churches, changeable currents, and large population of migratory birds, the lakes live in their own time.

By exploring on water and land the stories of poets, fishermen, and caretakers, misfits, rulers, and inheritors of war and exile, Kassabova uncovers the human destinies shaped by the lakes. Setting out to resolve her own ancestral legacy, Kassabova locates a deeper inquiry into how geography and politics imprint themselves upon families and nations, one that confronts her with universal questions about human suffering and the capacity for change.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In lyrical, radiant prose, the author recounts her journey to the lakes in a quest to understand the historical forces that shaped her family and her sense of self...A haunting, captivating memoir of homecoming." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[P]otent and meditative...This heartfelt exploration of the intersections between geography, history, and identity mesmerizes." - Publishers Weekly

"Borders and their intrinsic, deforming violence remain Kassabova's subject. But in this book she goes further, tracing the intrusion of those cracks deeper into the souls and psyche of successive generations, herself included...The book's achievement...is to reconcile, thrillingly, what those twin bodies of water represent to Kassabova: the unconscious and the conscious; the darkness of history and the radiance of life and love." - The Guardian (UK)

"To the Lake is an exquisitely written rallying cry to embrace the notion that the people of the Balkans—and indeed humanity as a whole—have more in common than what divides them, despite generations of strife suggesting otherwise." – Financial Times (UK)

"From the deep labyrinths of the Balkan past, Kapka Kassabova has returned with another hoard of extraordinary lives, tales of survival, dark comedy, and horror. Humanity glitters under her gaze in all its facets. Her prose is spectacularly good and her storytelling is a joy." - Philip Marsden

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Author Information

Kapka Kassabova

Kapka Kassabova grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. Her most recent book is Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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