cover image All Lara’s Wars

All Lara’s Wars

Wojciech Jagielski, trans. from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Seven Stories, $23.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-64421-016-1

Polish war correspondent Jagielski (Burning the Grass) tells the story of one mother’s struggle to save her sons from Islamic radicalization in this heartrending account. A member of the Kist ethnic minority in the Pankisi Gorge region of Georgia, Lara (no last name given) married a Chechen man and settled in Grozny, Russia. However, when conflict erupted between Russia and Chechnya’s separatist leader in the mid-1990s, she fled with her two sons back to Georgia. As refugees from the second war in Chechnya and as Islamic fighters who had joined the cause encroached into Pankisi Gorge, Lara sent her boys to Western Europe to live with their father. After losing contact for eight years, she discovered that both sons had joined the Islamic State’s fight against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. She traveled by bus from Georgia to an ISIS compound in Syria, where she learned that her eldest son was second-in-command to the local emir. “I have put my life in the hands of God,” he tells her. Days after returning home alone, Lara received news that both sons had been killed by Syrian forces. Jagielski maintains a tight focus on Lara and her family while placing their struggles within the context of such larger historical events as the breakup of the Soviet Union and the war on terror. This empathetic and deeply reported chronicle deserves a wide readership. (Oct.)