There was nothing special about Ana. She was a typical 10-year-old girl growing up in Zagreb, Yugoslavia when the war broke out. But shortly after her baby sister was sent to America for medical treatment, Ana's world was turned upside down. Serbs attacked her family and she found herself alone and thrust into the middle of a civil war.
Years later, Ana is living as an American college student, attempting to reconcile the tragedies of her past with her current life. She returns to Croatia seeking closure and those with whom she was once close.
Sara Nović's debut novel Girl at War tells Ana's story. Nović takes the reader forward and backward in time as we learn of Ana's search for peace. It is a moving story of a young girl denied a normal childhood.
Although this is a novel, it often reads like an autobiography. If the prose sometimes seems a bit awkward, this made it more authentic for me; if the narration is detached, it emphasized Ana's attempts to suppress the memories of her past.
I read this novel while visiting Croatia and I had the privilege of hearing stories of the civil war from the locals and from a museum above Dubrovnik. As a result, the story felt even more real for me.