Publishers Weekly Review
Two sisters from a remote Croatian island called Rosmarina form a core of family drama in this first novel from Brkic (Stillness). Magdalena, the elder sister and a schoolteacher, leads a Spartan, practically celibate life in her childhood room; while Jadranka is an unpredictable redhead who is starting to feel like "a fish that merely traveled the circumference of its bowl." When the sisters' American cousin Katarina unexpectedly invites Jadranka to live in New York City, several generations' worth of secrets begin to unravel: among them, what happened to the girls' long-presumed-dead Uncle Marin, and the uncertainty of Jadranka's parentage. Brkic handles the logistics of multi-generational intrigue adroitly, and her prose is thoughtful and careful, if overly restrained. The novel is underwhelming, however, as it doesn't begin to wield any emotional heft until the last 100 pages or so, when Jadranka's abrupt disappearance from Katarina's Manhattan apartment prompts her mother and sister to fly to NY to look for her. Brkic juggles too many perspectives and gets bogged down in back-story, when the present-day action and the fraught triangle between the sisters and their estranged mother Ana is what is most absorbing. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Luka, the patriarch of a family of fishermen living on the Croatian island of Rosmarina, taught everyone to swim, establishing a first rule with a profound implication Stay afloat. A place of commanding beauty and painful memories in the wake of war and Communist oppression, Rosmarina calls to Luka even after he falls into a coma, though his daughter, Ana, flees the island in anger with her young daughters, Magdalena and Jadranka. As in her story collection, Stillness (2003), and memoir, The Stone Fields (2004), Whiting Award winner Brkic draws on her Croatian heritage and Bosnian war experiences in her sinuous and suspenseful first novel as she tracks the paths of solitary teacher Magdalena, who becomes firmly anchored to Rosmarina, and elusive artist Jadranka, who, with her shimmering, red-haired beauty, resembles no one else in the family and changes everyone's lives by going to New York City and clandestinely searching for their missing uncle. In her exquisitely crafted, superbly structured novel, Brkic summons undertones of Greek tragedy to create her arresting characters and their intense emotions and dire secrets. By dramatizing nuanced questions of who is at fault, who can be trusted, and who will sink or swim, Brkic reveals persistent, multigenerational wounds of war, sacrifice, exile, and longing and imagines how healing might commence.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist