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MacArthur fellow Hemon's potent fiction (Love and Obstacles, 2009) is seeded with autobiographical elements now brought forward in his first book of nonfiction. In revised versions of essays first published in Granta and the New Yorker, Hemon chronicles with defining intensity, rueful self-critique, and piquant humor indelible revelations personal, cultural, and political. He is passionate about his hometown, Sarajevo, which he ardently explored and wrote about as a young militant journalist, to the point of realizing that my interiority was inseparable from my exteriority. This made his exile in the U.S. after war broke out in his homeland while he was away all the more excruciating. In his incisive, masterfully crafted, and complexly affecting family stories; Sarajevo exploits, including the party-performance piece that led to a 13-hour interrogation at State Security; tales of remapping the geography of the soul in Chicago, his adopted home; and his staggering chronicle of his daughter's tragic death, Hemon writes with deft force, piercing observation, and commanding candor about the individual's place within life's web and the horrors and beauty of the human condition.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Hemon is known for fiction like Nowhere Man and The Lazarus Project, a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, but this work is his first volume of nonfiction. A collection of 15 mostly previously published essays assembled in somewhat chronological order, the book has the feel of a patchwork memoir that focuses on defining and enlightening moments in the author's life rather than his existence as a whole. The "lives" of the title refer to his formative years growing up in Sarajevo and his adult life as a resident to Chicago and the stories are basically split between these two worlds. The first half of the book finds Hemon writing about himself and socio-political beliefs such as communism, socialism, and journalism, and the tales-while important in the context of the Bosnian War of the '90s-lack a wider perspective that would make them more inviting and compelling. But with the eighth entry, "Dog Lives," which centers on two family pets and straddles both Hemon's homes, the author begins to reveal more of his feelings, dwelling less on philosophy, thereby creating a true connection with his subject and audience. As he goes on to focus on his adopted hometown, the immigrants he plays soccer with, the chess players at his local cafe, and his past and present lovers, the themes and writing become more personal, emotional, and dynamic. The book culminates with "The Aquarium," 28 heart-wrenching pages of powerful prose originally published in the New Yorker, about his infant daughter's battle with cancer that is nothing short of a tour de force; its terrible beauty demonstrates Hemon's transformation as a writer and a man. Agent: Nicole Aragi, the Aragi Agency. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.