Love and Obstacles
By Aleksandar Hemon
224 pages; Riverhead
Reading the stories in in Aleksandar Hemon's new collection, Love and Obstacles , you may feel nearly giddy with pleasure at how beautifully written, funny, and entertaining they are, and at the depths of tenderness and seriousness swirling beneath their wry, deceptively offhand surface. Like their author, the young man at the center of these loosely linked fictions has grown up in Bosnia. When war breaks out in his homeland in the early 1990s, he finds himself stranded, a semireluctant immigrant, in the United States. In one tale, set during our hero's adolescence, his father is posted to Africa, where an encounter with a depraved American exposes the true heart of darkness; in another, a meeting with a stranger while selling magazines door-to-door in Chicago persuades the narrator that his adopted country may just be weird enough to love; in yet another, he learns an accidental lesson about literature and life from a famous American writer visiting postwar Sarajevo. Each of these marvelous tales reminds us of how rough and rocky the road to maturity and wisdom can be, and how much joy and damage lie in wait to ambush us along the way.
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