Excerpt from The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo

by Paula Huntley

The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2003, 237 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2004, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

1.

Wednesday, August 23, 2000 (two months earlier)
Bolinas, California


In three days we leave for Kosovo, and I am scared. Last night I awoke in the middle of the night and sat bolt upright, panicked. "What in God's name are we doing?"

I've had three months to get used to the idea. Ever since I came home from work the first of June to hear Ed say he'd been offered the chance to help build a modern legal system there. "Anywhere but Kosovo!" I protested. In Kosovo, where Slobodan Milosevic's bloody last-ditch effort to hang on to Serbian power in Yugoslavia ended only last year, the wounds are still fresh. Kosovo seemed, quite simply, too hard, too sad. But it is Kosovo that offers the greatest challenge for him, and now, for both of us, it is the plight, the courage of the Kosovars that touches our hearts.

So, despite my months of protest, we are going to Kosovo. I keep telling myself that it won't be the first time I have followed my heart into something new and scary. I met Ed twenty-one years ago on a blind date in Little Rock, Arkansas. Two months later I left my job, my friends and family, and everything I owned to go live with Ed in a funky little town in northern California, as different from Little Rock as any place in America could be. I took a chance and was happy I did. So maybe now...

Although Kosovo is Ed's idea, his work that will take us there, I know I must find my own way. I know something of what I hope to gain from the experience: a greater tolerance for ambiguity, a greater respect for differences, some clearer understanding of my own capacity for change, maybe. Am I willing to risk turning my own notions of myself and the world upside down? For this, I suspect, is what I'm getting myself into.

I already think of myself as tolerant, open-minded, respectful. But, from what I've read, life in Kosovo may challenge this smug belief. I may find myself wondering where to draw the line: Should endless generational blood feuds be respected? (The ancient Albanian code of conduct, the Kanun of Lek Dukagjin, which I am reading tonight, specifies that blood can only be wiped out with blood.) Should abuse of women be tolerated because it is part of their culture? (In the Kanun, women are "sacks, made to endure," as if their only purpose is to bear men's children-male children, preferably.) These traditions are dying out, I imagine. But what will I make of the vestiges that remain?

And can I stick it out for a year? How hard will life in Kosovo be? Will there be enough food? Will we be able to find decent housing? Can we stay healthy? We spoke recently with a psychologist who took a team of his fellows into Kosovo last winter. Seven of the ten got viral pneumonia, several became extremely depressed, and only one is willing to return.

How dangerous will it be? Only today I read a news report about a Bulgarian U.N. worker in the capital, Prishtina, who, being stopped on the street by an Albanian who asked the time in Serbian, politely answered in the same language. Believing he had identified one of the hated Serbs, the Albanian shot the young Bulgarian to death. The U.N. worker's only mistake was giving the time in the language of the enemy. Political correctness, Balkan style.

Ed has taken unpaid leave from the law school to work pro bono in the Balkans and I've resigned from my marketing job of twelve years. We will have no income for a year, but we've decided to make the commitment. The only worry that really remains tonight is whether I can do anything useful for the Kosovars. I don't want to be a voyeur in a country that has suffered so much. Ed will be helping to create a modern legal system with the American Bar Association's Central and Eastern European Law Initiative (ABA-CEELI). But I have no legal training, no medical or counseling skills. And there is certainly no need in Kosovo at this stage for my marketing experience.

Reprinted from The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley by permission of The Putnam Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright (c) 2003, Paula Huntley. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Ghachar Ghochar
    by Vivek Shanbhag
    The Bengaluru (aka Bangalore) that has dominated economic news headlines over the past decade is the...
  • Book Jacket: Caught in the Revolution
    Caught in the Revolution
    by Helen Rappaport
    So taken were BookBrowse's First Impression reviewers by the inside look at the start of the Russian...
  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Lola
    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

At times, our own light goes out, and is rekindled by a spark from another person.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -