As I was reading this book, I was reminded of two axioms about writing:

  1. Just because it is true doesn’t mean it is a good story or that it should be in a story.
  2. A lot of people can write; not everyone is a writer.

There is a compelling story here, but Treincevic (I’m sorry that I don’t know how to make all of the required accents for his name) and Shapiro (surprisingly? unforgivably?) can’t find it. All of the elements for a compelling and important memoir are present – a departure and a return, a father and a son, lost innocence, the titular list, etc.. But the two co-authors make an absolutely hash of it. The writing, particularly the dialogue, is clumsy and pedantic. The pacing is stilted. And the lack of clarity (how about a map?) is astonishing.

There is much that can be extracted from here and much to discuss. We tend to know what happens to the politicians and military leaders during and after a war. But what about the ordinary folks? And what is it like to resume life at home – or in a new home – once it’s over? How do you move on? Make peace? Revise and reconcile history and memory? Choices made out of necessity and choices made out of cruelty? As much as you may have hated it at the time and built it up over time, how do you allow yourself to see another person’s story?

There’s a lot of raw material here. I just wish it had been in better hands.

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