rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is in contention for a National Book Award. It has excellent descriptions of what it is like to be the “other.” Hemon does a good job of telling three stories at once. The first story is the narrator’s quest to discover the story about Lazarus, a man who escaped a pogrom in the Ukraine in the early 1900s only to be killed by a Chicago police officer shortly after immigrating there.
The second story is about the narrator’s trip to the Ukraine to discover more about Lazarus. In the process of delving into Lazarus’ life, the narrator learns a great deal about himself – not all good.
The third story is about the narrator’s friend, who, before moving to Chicago himself, lived through the fighting in Sarajevo in the 1990s.
Hemon does a good job of keeping the stories interesting, and he weaves them together with precision. There are moments of brilliant insights, particularly in the last third of the novel. Its as if Hemon now trusts the reader to dive deep into the psyches of the characters he is resurrecting.
And yet, when I was finished with the novel, I felt unsatisfied. Its not that I am looking for tidy conclusions to the stories; I just felt like something important was missing.