THE STONE FIELDS: An Epitaph for the Living

Courtney Angela Brkic, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $24 (336p) ISBN 978-0-374-20774-8

This heartbreaking memoir wends between Brkic's years in war-ravaged Bosnia (1993, 1996–1997), first interviewing refugees and then excavating mass graves outside Srebrenica, where 7,000 Muslim males were slaughtered, and including her family's history in Bosnia-Herzegovina surrounding WWII. Brkic, an archeologist, was 21 when she first began working in Bosnia with the UN International War Crimes Tribunal, and 24 during her second foray, with Physicians for Human Rights. A first-generation American of Croatian descent, she returns to Bosnia, invoking what, postwar, is only memory: the land of idyllic childhood summers where she remembers her aunt's catfish swimming in a tub and the taste of lamb fed on chamomile leaves in a countryside now littered with land mines. In the former garment factory, now morgue, outside Tuzla, where she works, Brkic feels alien to the other human rights workers; her ties to the region superimpose the face of her brother on the newly dead; her assertion that not everyone bears equivalent guilt for the war causes her to angrily demand that Serb workers not excavate the mass graves she believes they had a hand in filling. Whiting Award winner Brkic's haunting, hopeless memoir is an agonizing treatise on the awful cost of war and its long, pain-stoked aftermath in which, as she records it, those outside forget and those inside can barely continue living. Photos, maps. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/05/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4299-2413-9
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-312-42439-8
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