When she was only eight years old, Havaa’s father instructed her to pack her suitcase and have it ready, should she need to leave in a hurry. So when the pounding on the front door began he gave her the suitcase and pushed her out the back door into the night. Hiding in the cold, trying not to look, trying not to think, she saw them drag her father out, throw him into the truck. She watched them set fire to her home. After everything was quiet again, her neighbor, Akhmed found her, carried her to his house and tucked her in bed. The next morning they walked to the city from their village and to the hospital in the city. Everything was bombed, the streets, the buildings, even the hospital. Akhmed could think of no other place where Havaa might be safe, might be hidden. The hospital was mostly deserted. Only Sonja, the doctor, Deshi, the nurse, remained to treat the influx of wounded rebels and refugees.
Set in war ravaged Chechnya; this is a beautifully crafted novel with the scene shifting at random from 2004 to 1994 and the years between. It has a very Russian feel . . . dark and brooding with characters worn down and resigned to their fate by years of deprivation. Only Havaa, the brilliant child, provides a tiny ray of hope. This is Anthony Marra’s first novel and I am eagerly looking forward to his second.
eGalley review Publication date 5.7.13