cover image Breakup: A Marriage in Wartime

Breakup: A Marriage in Wartime

Anjan Sundaram. Catapult, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-1-64622-115-8

War correspondent Sundaram (Stringer) interweaves the geopolitical and the personal in this riveting account of “the most isolated major war in the world”: the ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic between Christian and Muslim forces. In 2013, Sundaram left his wife and infant daughter to report on the conflict, which began that year when Muslim rebels overthrew president François Bozizé. Sundaram’s companions included an American investigator for Human Rights Watch, a Central African journalist, and a local driver who might be a government spy. In matter-of-fact prose, Sundaram details their journey into the interior from the capital of Bangui, collecting eyewitness accounts of war crimes. Tragic details, including mass graves reeking of disinfectant, are balanced by profiles of courage: in one of the book’s most remarkable scenes, an Italian nun serves “as a human shield” for 3,000 people taking sanctuary in her church. Though Sundaram’s wife, a former war correspondent, pleads with him to come home, he pursues “greater reporting” in the war’s most dangerous areas. The narrative reaches a crescendo when UN peacekeepers arrive to protect the refugees sheltering in the church and Sundaram returns to Canada and discovers that his marriage has been irreparably damaged. Concise history lessons explain how colonial rule exacerbated the conflict, and Sundaram makes the country’s complex political and religious landscape accessible. The result is a powerful study of the forces that tear nations and people apart. (Apr.)