Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: "Fools Rush In"

I am woefully behind on book reviews, by which I mean that I haven't done one all year.  My general hope to complete a book review for each book read is fading fast.  To stop the bleeding, I'll start with one of my all-time favorite books that I revisited a few months ago. 

"Fools Rush In" is the story of a city as its main character, much like Baltimore is the true star of HBO's "The Wire."  Sarevejo is the majority-muslim city of Bosnia that was under siege during the civil war that engulfed the old Yugoslavia in the '90's.  At the time the story takes place, the city has been surrounded by the Serbian army, the UN is in the area "monitoring the situation," and thousands of civilians have been slaughtered. 

Bill Carter is a damaged man.  Broken and damaged from the death of his fiance, he goes to Bosnia to feel again.  It is quickly obvious to him that the UN and other peace-keeping forces are doing little other than counting the growing number of casualties, and he stumbles upon a shoe-string charity group that delivers food beyond the frontlines of the war.  The group is made up of other men who came together looking for some kind of purpose.  They found it amidst the blood and ruin and genocide of Bosnia-Herzogovina. 

While the rest of the group moves in and out of Sarajevo, often leaving for months to gather food and deliver in other areas, Carter cannot leave.  He finds his purpose living amongst a war-ravaged people, sprinting across sniper alley, sharing the dwindling food of the city, living and learning with the patriots, the artists, the families, the hipsters and the poets who loved their city too much to leave when they had the chance.  At one point, he realizes why he couldn't leave:

"Yet there would be turning back.  Not now.  Not after meeting the people I had met and seeing what I had seen. It would be like hearing a woman scream rape and going for a drink just to get out of earshot.  No, it was too late for people like Graeme and me, suckers who believe that if we give a little more it will turn around for the better.  It wasn't that I thought I could save the world.  At this point I would have settled for erasing my memory.  Once memory gets hardwired into your brain it gets more difficult to erase your sense of responsibility.  Why else do we have that cancer called television?  Why are we inundated with sound bite news, and infantile politicians making promises they never intend to keep?  Low ball, baby.  Keep it simple and stupid.  Keep the masses doped up on false expectations of lower taxes, second mortgages and entry into the country club, and you've got yourself a happy society ready, willing and able to ignore those cries of rape.  No one can hear them - the TV is too loud."
In short, what has been seen cannot be unseen, and by the time Carter had stumbled into this new world, he could no longer pretend that men, women and children were not being slaughtered by their former neighbors as the world sat on their hands.

"Fools Rush In" is a powerful, powerful book, full of passion, terror, and tragedy, but above all, love.  I could not recommend it higher.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This looks like my kind of thing. I will look into getting a copy.
"My war gone by.." is still one of the most potent books I've ever read.

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