The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway 2008 (235 pgs)
During the siege of Sarajevo, a man watches from his window as 22 of his friends and neighbors are killed by a single shell while waiting in line for bread. He quietly puts on his tux, picks up his cello, and plays in the wreckage for 22 days. From there, the narrative shifts between three other survivors in the war zone, one of them a sniper charged with keeping the cellist alive during his “concerts.” A moving novel without veering towards maudlin or sappy. It’s a haunting look at how hope sustains people during war and how sometimes survival means creating your own hope.
The Hour I First Believedby Wally Lamb 2008 (740 pgs)
A heartbreaking book of broad scope, The Hour I First Believed takes a look at the reverberations of tragedy. While Caelem’s back East planning his aunt’s funeral, his wife Maureen becomes a close witness to the Columbine shootings. While not physically injured, the psychic damage spins her off into a years long bout with PTSD, depression, and addiction. Unable to recover from the shootings and searching for some measure of peace, they head off to the family farm in Connecticut. Once there Caelem also stumbles upon secrets from his family’s past that begin to affect him just as strongly as his wife’s ordeal.
Lamb writes tragedy beautifully, his characters real and realistically fallible. Fans of his previous book I Know This Much Is True will not be disappointed.