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Country of Red Azaleas

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A riveting novel about two women--one Serbian, one Bosnian--whose friendship spans decades and continents, war and peace, love and estrangement, in the vein of Elena Ferrante and Julia Alvarez. Closer than sisters, Lara and Marija share everything, from stolen fruit and Hollywood movies as girls to ideologies and even lovers as young women. But when the Bosnian War pits th A riveting novel about two women--one Serbian, one Bosnian--whose friendship spans decades and continents, war and peace, love and estrangement, in the vein of Elena Ferrante and Julia Alvarez. Closer than sisters, Lara and Marija share everything, from stolen fruit and Hollywood movies as girls to ideologies and even lovers as young women. But when the Bosnian War pits their homelands against each other in a bloodbath, Lara and Marija are forced to separate: romantic Lara heads to America with her Hollywood-handsome husband, and fierce Marija goes to her native Sarajevo to combat the war through journalism. In America, Lara seeks fulfillment through work and family, but when news from Marija ceases, the uncertainty torments Lara, driving her on a quest to find her friend. As Lara travels through war-torn Serbia, following clues that may yet lead to the flesh-and-blood Marija, she must also wrestle with truths about her own identity. Told in lush, vivid prose, COUNTRY OF RED AZALEAS is a poignant testament to both the power of friendship and our ability to find meaning and beauty in the face of devastation.


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A riveting novel about two women--one Serbian, one Bosnian--whose friendship spans decades and continents, war and peace, love and estrangement, in the vein of Elena Ferrante and Julia Alvarez. Closer than sisters, Lara and Marija share everything, from stolen fruit and Hollywood movies as girls to ideologies and even lovers as young women. But when the Bosnian War pits th A riveting novel about two women--one Serbian, one Bosnian--whose friendship spans decades and continents, war and peace, love and estrangement, in the vein of Elena Ferrante and Julia Alvarez. Closer than sisters, Lara and Marija share everything, from stolen fruit and Hollywood movies as girls to ideologies and even lovers as young women. But when the Bosnian War pits their homelands against each other in a bloodbath, Lara and Marija are forced to separate: romantic Lara heads to America with her Hollywood-handsome husband, and fierce Marija goes to her native Sarajevo to combat the war through journalism. In America, Lara seeks fulfillment through work and family, but when news from Marija ceases, the uncertainty torments Lara, driving her on a quest to find her friend. As Lara travels through war-torn Serbia, following clues that may yet lead to the flesh-and-blood Marija, she must also wrestle with truths about her own identity. Told in lush, vivid prose, COUNTRY OF RED AZALEAS is a poignant testament to both the power of friendship and our ability to find meaning and beauty in the face of devastation.

30 review for Country of Red Azaleas

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    "All throughout my college years in Belgrade, throughout my later years on a different continent, throughout the years of the war and after the war, the image of us racing through the back alleys of Sarajevo with our mouths puckered from stolen fruit, our hearts booming out of our chests, the cupolas of the mosques glistening in the sunset, and the hills of Sarajevo sprinkled with white houses and red azalea bushes like a huge colorful and throbbing nest of life was always with me as a reminder "All throughout my college years in Belgrade, throughout my later years on a different continent, throughout the years of the war and after the war, the image of us racing through the back alleys of Sarajevo with our mouths puckered from stolen fruit, our hearts booming out of our chests, the cupolas of the mosques glistening in the sunset, and the hills of Sarajevo sprinkled with white houses and red azalea bushes like a huge colorful and throbbing nest of life was always with me as a reminder that I had once held a corner of heaven in my hands.” Lara, who is Serbian, and Marija, who is Bosnian, meet when they are young, and a friendship blossoms, a friendship that will become a life-long friendship. As they grow older, and closer, they share pretty much everything, they are committed to the same political causes, protest together. They are caught up in the idealistic visions of youth, as though their future life is part of one of so many of the Hollywood films they grew up watching. As the Bosnian war grows closer in time and distance, Lara meets, and falls head-over-heels for Mark, an American. It’s a whirlwind romance, with the danger of war looming, all those visions and memories of the times Lara and Marija had dreamed of moving to America add one more reason to the pile. And so, they marry. Soon after, they head for Washington, DC, man and wife. “It was a cruel spring day with blooming chestnut trees and forsythias and news of rampant killings of Bosnians by nationalist Serbs in Sarajevo. It was the day when Marija and I said good-bye on the threshold of her apartment with mascara running down our cheeks and agonizing fears weighing in our hearts.” This is a story of war, the repercussions of those who survive it, the haunting memories that come unbidden, the physical and emotional scars always there. Reminders. This is also the story of the loyalty and the disloyalty of love. Honesty. Loss. Loss of home, of family, friends. Loss of a sense of safety. Recommended. Pub Date: 5 April 2016 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Twelve Books, NetGalley and author Domnica Radulescu.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    Somewhere Else This is a book where all the interesting action seems to be happening somewhere else, whether in another city, halfway across the world, or several years before. What is on screen here and now is mainly ordinary stuff: a young Belgrade woman marries a visiting American academic, moves into his nice apartment in Washington DC, has a baby, starts up the academic ladder herself, and then comes to the realization that the marriage is not all it once was. By and large, Lara Kulicz seems Somewhere Else This is a book where all the interesting action seems to be happening somewhere else, whether in another city, halfway across the world, or several years before. What is on screen here and now is mainly ordinary stuff: a young Belgrade woman marries a visiting American academic, moves into his nice apartment in Washington DC, has a baby, starts up the academic ladder herself, and then comes to the realization that the marriage is not all it once was. By and large, Lara Kulicz seems to have it pretty good. A diplomat’s daughter, well educated, speaking several languages, she leaves Serbia before the war has affected her personally, and comes to America, not as a refugee “yearning to breathe free” but already as a member of the social and intellectual elite. The story of her early gaffes, gradual acclimation, motherhood, and eventual divorce are real enough, well told, and undoubtedly personal to her, but they are nothing that we have not read before in other novels. And they take up more than half the book. There is another potentially more interesting story hiding behind this one, but we see it only in glimpses. Growing up, Lara became close friends with another girl called Marija, going to the same school in Belgrade and spending summers in Marija’s home in Sarajevo. But the former Yugoslavia splits, they find themselves citizens of different countries. Undaunted by the growing threats of violence, the two, now college students, start a small anti-war movement, shaving their heads and passing out leaflets in bars. When war actually breaks out, Lara goes to Washington, and Marija returns to Sarajevo as a reporter. They do not see each other for twelve years, but Lara hears about ethnic cleansing and rape camps and fears the worst. As the back cover will tell you, the two will eventually meet again, but incongruously this does not take place in war-torn Bosnia but in Los Angeles, where Marija has found work as a consultant in Hollywood, and appears to be fairly well-off. Yes, she bears scars, on her body and even more in her mind, but these are things we find out about only gradually; they happened at another time, somewhere else. All through the book, there is a disconnect between the settings in which we see the women, and the violent subtext that we are to understand rules their lives. For all Radulescu's skill in describing the ordinary aspects of Lara’s life (which I assume must somewhat overlap with her own), she fails to make a compelling connection to what is truly unique. I am ashamed to say that I had to download a map of the Balkans to learn the geography of the different states. I had a hard time separating Serbia and Bosnia, and remembering which was country was Orthodox and which Muslim. It makes me realize that I lived through an entire decade, reading about wars and atrocities here or there, without ever fully grasping where they were or what was at stake. And I am prepared to bet that I was not alone in my ignorance. They were terrible things, but they happened somewhere else. Domnica Radulescu’s novel has at least inspired me to get some facts straight. But as for making me truly feel the terrors, I have to say it failed.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    Could not put this book down, stayed up till 2AM reading. This woman's book are SO thought provoking. We Americans are so fortunate, so far, to have not experienced brutal dictators, communism, and all out war on our home soil. It makes me think of us as blasé and naive because we have been untested by the kind of adversity experienced by the people in Europe. A friend who grew up in communist Poland recommended her books to me. I'm richer for reading them. Could not put this book down, stayed up till 2AM reading. This woman's book are SO thought provoking. We Americans are so fortunate, so far, to have not experienced brutal dictators, communism, and all out war on our home soil. It makes me think of us as blasé and naive because we have been untested by the kind of adversity experienced by the people in Europe. A friend who grew up in communist Poland recommended her books to me. I'm richer for reading them.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chanele

    Domnica Radulescu is one of my favorite authors, and every time I finish one of her novels, I feel so much emotion. The lushness of her writing style combined with the intricate character development make for a powerful experience. Radulescu punctuates her beautiful storytelling with particularly gorgeous endings. In every book, the last few paragraphs, sometimes the last few lines, are the most beautiful of the whole story, a technique that leaves the writer with emotion and longing. This novel Domnica Radulescu is one of my favorite authors, and every time I finish one of her novels, I feel so much emotion. The lushness of her writing style combined with the intricate character development make for a powerful experience. Radulescu punctuates her beautiful storytelling with particularly gorgeous endings. In every book, the last few paragraphs, sometimes the last few lines, are the most beautiful of the whole story, a technique that leaves the writer with emotion and longing. This novel follows a similar path that the other two I have read (and as far as I know, the only other two there are - sadly!) in that it tells the struggle of an immigrant woman that tries to balance the experiences of her old country with the challenges of her new. This book differs in that instead of featuring Romanian characters, Radulescu introduces Lara, a Serbian woman who is connected through an unshakable bond to her best friend, the Bosnian Marija. When Lara meets a handsome young American and leaves for a life in the United States, she is forced to leave her beloved Marija behind in the midst of the horrifying and tragic Bosnian War. Lara reconnects to Marija years later to rediscover her precious friend that suffered unimaginable loss during the war and helps Marija reunite with her son, a symbol of light and love despite being conceived from terrible violence in the conflict. The story is powerful and poetic, and it ultimately reminds us that friendship can be the foundation of an unparalleled love, far greater than any romantic one we may ever know.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    Marija and Lara share everything, even a lover- which may be a bit too much closeness for most. I enjoyed their early childhood, was charmed by it and then felt the story sour on me. Eventually, the inseparable friends (more like sisters) chose different paths in life. Lara marries an American and leaves for the USA, while Marija becomes a journalist in Sarajevo-living lives that couldn't be more different. Lara throughout the novel seems less of a person than Marija, maybe even only vibrant whe Marija and Lara share everything, even a lover- which may be a bit too much closeness for most. I enjoyed their early childhood, was charmed by it and then felt the story sour on me. Eventually, the inseparable friends (more like sisters) chose different paths in life. Lara marries an American and leaves for the USA, while Marija becomes a journalist in Sarajevo-living lives that couldn't be more different. Lara throughout the novel seems less of a person than Marija, maybe even only vibrant when she was in her presence. At times she came off as cold and unlikable. Although Marija was the core of Lara's childhood, once she is in America there is too much distance in communication with war-torn Sarajevo. She is left wondering what happened to her friend. Is she still alive? While fascinated by the history, I wanted more insight about Marija's life. I felt she was where the real story should have forked off towards. This is certainly an exploration into how war rips through people, but I felt Lara was not who one would expect her to be with what she had been through in life. She isn't likable nor interesting. Read it for the history. The ending left me scratching my head in their interactions, just didn't make sense but I don't want to give away what happens.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stella Vinitchi

    "Country of Red Azaleas" Domnica's Radulescu's recent novel, it's an amazing story of human resilience facing war, danger, alienation. With lucid sensitivity and an impressionistic style the author introduces us to the atrocities of the Bosnian war and the 1990 genocide while using an impressive psychological insight in analyzing its consequences upon the two main characters, Lara, a Serbian woman and Marija, a Bosnian woman. The book gives a clear understanding of how people act in extreme situa "Country of Red Azaleas" Domnica's Radulescu's recent novel, it's an amazing story of human resilience facing war, danger, alienation. With lucid sensitivity and an impressionistic style the author introduces us to the atrocities of the Bosnian war and the 1990 genocide while using an impressive psychological insight in analyzing its consequences upon the two main characters, Lara, a Serbian woman and Marija, a Bosnian woman. The book gives a clear understanding of how people act in extreme situations and are able to heal and take back their lives. The unifying line of the book is the friendship and love between Lara and Marija who evolve in different ways, according to different circumstances, but at the end they both succeed to overcome loss, fear, loneliness, disruption and to be reunited by love and hope. The book is an absolute "must read", it will enchant you and also tell you how to be better prepared to confront and to challenge dangerous situations. Tania Podrovska

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This is the story of two very young girls, who meet in class in Belgrade at Lara's school, the new student has just arrived from Sarejevo, named Marija. They become the best of friends all through school becoming absorbed in each other's families and this extends into their university days. Lara meets an American at a bar and decides to marry him and migrate to America. This is at the outbreak of the war, and Marija returns to Sarejevo becoming an underground journalist, and years and war separat This is the story of two very young girls, who meet in class in Belgrade at Lara's school, the new student has just arrived from Sarejevo, named Marija. They become the best of friends all through school becoming absorbed in each other's families and this extends into their university days. Lara meets an American at a bar and decides to marry him and migrate to America. This is at the outbreak of the war, and Marija returns to Sarejevo becoming an underground journalist, and years and war separate them, and Lara has no way of knowing whether Marija has survived This friendship spans the horror of genocide, the guilt of surviving and they way they choose to heal once they find each other again.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I wanted to like this book - which got great reviews - more than I did. Story starts in Belgrade, before the war and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Lara, a Serbian girl, is best friends with Marija whose family is from Sarajevo and Muslim. But none of this matters, or is even thought of, until the Balkan Wars begin. L ends up married in US, loses touch with M who is Sarajevo. The history of this tragic time is well described in this book, with its tragic consequences for families and individu I wanted to like this book - which got great reviews - more than I did. Story starts in Belgrade, before the war and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Lara, a Serbian girl, is best friends with Marija whose family is from Sarajevo and Muslim. But none of this matters, or is even thought of, until the Balkan Wars begin. L ends up married in US, loses touch with M who is Sarajevo. The history of this tragic time is well described in this book, with its tragic consequences for families and individuals. But the individual stories - of L and, less so, M, just didn't add up. Never understood what was SO objectionable about L's husband? Where was his family. So the storyline of what was happening in the former Yugoslavia made the book worth reading. The rest, not so much.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    More Marija and less Lara, please. I blame the blurb, I was expecting a very different book and kept waiting for Marija's experiences to be the focus. I will, however, applaud the accurate depiction of upper-middle class life in Washington D.C. More Marija and less Lara, please. I blame the blurb, I was expecting a very different book and kept waiting for Marija's experiences to be the focus. I will, however, applaud the accurate depiction of upper-middle class life in Washington D.C.

  10. 4 out of 5

    cait cams

    3.5, struggled through this one a bit.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Warning: English is not my native tongue so this may contain some mistakes. There might be some spoilers Once I had this book in my hands I immediately immersed myself in it and from the first pages I knew it would be a book I would adore. The narration wakes up all the senses and the way things such as food, music, landscapes are described are so to the point I ended up quite satisfied with it I should say. Now about the story... I'm not gonna lie, I was initially attracted to it by the fact t Warning: English is not my native tongue so this may contain some mistakes. There might be some spoilers Once I had this book in my hands I immediately immersed myself in it and from the first pages I knew it would be a book I would adore. The narration wakes up all the senses and the way things such as food, music, landscapes are described are so to the point I ended up quite satisfied with it I should say. Now about the story... I'm not gonna lie, I was initially attracted to it by the fact that the book's protagonist and me share the same name. I loved how the story followed a storyline that went from Lara and Marija's childhood to their encounter in adulthood, filled with anything that can occur in someone's life –call it war, divorce, cheating, giving birth, etc. I also liked how Radulescu had another perspective rather the ones I was used to in books from a similar topic: this time we have a protagonist from who finds herself in a strange place on which position to take about the event happening about her. I liked how in this matter Lara is portrayed as a human being like you and me, with all her ups and downs, flaws and imperfections. Instead, I felt that Marija –though portrayed through Lara's eyes, was somewhat of a perfect human with no flaws at all, which felt quite unreal to me. I'm giving it 4.5 stars given that I felt the ending lacked something: maybe more interaction between Marija and her son? What would happen next in Lara's future? I felt like the story ended so quickly when there should've been something answering the questions that would come up to the reader in the last moments. Apart from that, the story was a very enjoyable read that succeeded to meet most of my expectations about it –and it some cases surpassing them!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Evancic

    The story centers around Lara, a Serbian and Marija, a Bosnian. Typical young friends writing letters back and forth during school. They ran through the back alleys as kids, stealing fruit from the vendors, running by hotels inundated with red azaleas on sunny days. They shared everything, even a lover named Milko when they were in college in Belgrade. But the Bosnian War came and they went their different ways. Marija felt she needed to represent the people and get the word out about all the de The story centers around Lara, a Serbian and Marija, a Bosnian. Typical young friends writing letters back and forth during school. They ran through the back alleys as kids, stealing fruit from the vendors, running by hotels inundated with red azaleas on sunny days. They shared everything, even a lover named Milko when they were in college in Belgrade. But the Bosnian War came and they went their different ways. Marija felt she needed to represent the people and get the word out about all the destruction. She became a journalist for Sarjevo's main newspaper. She ran into the eye of the storm. Lara had just met Mark, an American and felt it was her destiny to go to America. So, she came to America as an immigrant, married Mark, and drowned herself in graduate studies. She started a doctoral program in political science and tried to find marital bliss and professional fulfillment. But, hearing about the massacres of Srebrenica and stories of the camps, almost destroyed Lara. Seven thousand Muslim Bosnian men were executed during just six days in July. Rape camps were heard of often, and her fear for Marija's welfare grew because they had lost contact. Lara was distracted by her unhappy marriage and Karim, her new lover, but Marija was never far from Lara's mind. Lara taught Politics 101 and an advanced politics class on Eastern European post-Communist government. During this class, she compared the American invasion of Iraq with recent wars of aggression like the Bosnian war. Finally, Marija, partially broken, reached out to her, and Lara realized that she was broken also. She realized she needed Marija in her life. She connects with her and they go on their next quest, to right a wrong. This is basically a sad, slow, heavy story. It is full of the violence of war and the destruction it leaves behind. But, the story is also full of those that help hold the pieces together when there is little hope, and about having a lifelong friendship that knows no bounds.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Lara and Marija, one Serbian, one Bosnian, forge a deep and lasting friendship in their childhood, spending time in both Belgrade and Sarajevo, but are subsequently separated by the outbreak of the Bosnian war which devastates their homelands and their lives. Lara goes to America whilst Marija stays behind in Sarajevo and faces all the horror that unfolds. Through her experiences we glimpse the genocide and see how dreadful events affect ordinary people who might otherwise have led peaceful and Lara and Marija, one Serbian, one Bosnian, forge a deep and lasting friendship in their childhood, spending time in both Belgrade and Sarajevo, but are subsequently separated by the outbreak of the Bosnian war which devastates their homelands and their lives. Lara goes to America whilst Marija stays behind in Sarajevo and faces all the horror that unfolds. Through her experiences we glimpse the genocide and see how dreadful events affect ordinary people who might otherwise have led peaceful and fulfilling existences. There’s much to be said for this mainly compelling story of the two women’s lives and their abiding friendship but overall its flaws outweigh its virtues. The main problem is Lara herself, who by anyone’s standards isn’t a very sympathetic character. Marija is by far the more interesting person but we see little of her until we meet her again (careful, spoiler alert here…..) at the end of the book when she somehow arrives in America and can afford a rather flamboyant lifestyle. Lara seems shallow by comparison and far too much of the book is spent describing her extra-marital affair and the breakdown of her marriage, which has little relevance to the general narrative. Yes, it’s a powerful story about the devastation brought about by terrible and cruel wars and the breakdown of countries, and demonstrates how the political affects the personal, but as the characterisation is often superficial it’s difficult to care very much or get involved. Nevertheless, it rattles along at a good pace and is certainly readable, but perhaps needed a heavier editorial hand.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Giuls

    I'm glad to have read this book because it touches upon a recent history of which I still don't know enough about. Many more books should tell the stories of those who have been affected by the Balkan wars! However, I would have appreciated if the novel focused more on Marija and less on Lara's life in the US, on her struggle with the domestic and immigrant life. Indeed, Lara does not directly experience the war, which was the topic I was interested in when I bought the book. At the same time, m I'm glad to have read this book because it touches upon a recent history of which I still don't know enough about. Many more books should tell the stories of those who have been affected by the Balkan wars! However, I would have appreciated if the novel focused more on Marija and less on Lara's life in the US, on her struggle with the domestic and immigrant life. Indeed, Lara does not directly experience the war, which was the topic I was interested in when I bought the book. At the same time, moreover, I felt that some essential elements explaining Lara and Marija's behaviors were lacking: why did not Lara try to find Marija? How did Marija recover from the experience of war and rape? Why exactly did Lara stop loving her husband? ... In this sense I would have appreciated if the main characters were better depicted.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Garryvivianne

    Marija & Lara have been life long friends since they were little. They are together so much, they like to watch old American movies, they like to run through the markets & steal & eat as much fruit as they can handle. They have fun. One is Serbian, the other is Bosnian. When the Bosnian wars start, they are forced to separate. Lara goes to America with her new husband, a young, handsome journalist from Washington. Marija stays in her native Bosnia, bravely fighting against the war through her jo Marija & Lara have been life long friends since they were little. They are together so much, they like to watch old American movies, they like to run through the markets & steal & eat as much fruit as they can handle. They have fun. One is Serbian, the other is Bosnian. When the Bosnian wars start, they are forced to separate. Lara goes to America with her new husband, a young, handsome journalist from Washington. Marija stays in her native Bosnia, bravely fighting against the war through her journalism. They always keep in touch, but when communication from Marija ceases, Lara goes to find her. This is a story of true and everlasting friendship.

  16. 5 out of 5

    April eclecticbookworm

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway a couple years ago and it shouldn’t have taken this long to read but I put it down several times and lost it a few. The summary sounded good and I hadn’t read much about the Bosnian war so I was excited to start it but I found the main character so unlikeable and for most of the book it was all about her life in America and little about what was going on with her friend. The last 1/3 picked up some but I wish the whole thing had been from Marija’s POV instead o I won this in a Goodreads giveaway a couple years ago and it shouldn’t have taken this long to read but I put it down several times and lost it a few. The summary sounded good and I hadn’t read much about the Bosnian war so I was excited to start it but I found the main character so unlikeable and for most of the book it was all about her life in America and little about what was going on with her friend. The last 1/3 picked up some but I wish the whole thing had been from Marija’s POV instead of Lara’s.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Magda

    A poignant, fluidly written story of self, family, war and life that, having lived myself in a different part of the Balkans in the mid-2000s, hit close to home. The main character, Lara, was a bit self-centred for someone who'd gone through so much. And I could have done without the covert lesbian ending. But it was a good book. A poignant, fluidly written story of self, family, war and life that, having lived myself in a different part of the Balkans in the mid-2000s, hit close to home. The main character, Lara, was a bit self-centred for someone who'd gone through so much. And I could have done without the covert lesbian ending. But it was a good book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    I really enjoyed this book, couldn't put it down! I really enjoyed this book, couldn't put it down!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Saumya Premchander

    I was a bit dubious when I started this, but it gets better 50 pages in, and turned out to be quite lovely.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Daisy

    I wish I liked this more. Why?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    Domnica Radulescu hits her stride with Country of Red Azaleas . Thematically similar to (yet more efficiently executed than) its predecessor Train to Trieste , this novel illustrates the emptiness that accompanies losing an important person, leaving one's homeland, ending an unsatisfying marriage, and enduring the terror and torture of war. Quick pacing made this an enjoyable, if dark, read; I look forward to reading more from Radulescu. Domnica Radulescu hits her stride with Country of Red Azaleas . Thematically similar to (yet more efficiently executed than) its predecessor Train to Trieste , this novel illustrates the emptiness that accompanies losing an important person, leaving one's homeland, ending an unsatisfying marriage, and enduring the terror and torture of war. Quick pacing made this an enjoyable, if dark, read; I look forward to reading more from Radulescu.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Wow.... the book is wonderfully written - the author is amazing. Very dark and hard read though.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Clifford

    Compelling story of a Serb and a Bosnian, survivor of the Bosnian war, who find their way to America.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    The author is a Romanian who came here as a political refugee, and here she writes about the fallout from the Serbian war on Bosnia in the early 1990's. I didn't love it. The author's English is quite good but not consistently so; there are awkward phrasings here and there. I kept wondering why her editor didn't correct them. The story itself is kind of oddly paced, and there's a lot more telling than showing. The narrator and her best friend have an idyllic childhood in pre-war Belgrade and Sara The author is a Romanian who came here as a political refugee, and here she writes about the fallout from the Serbian war on Bosnia in the early 1990's. I didn't love it. The author's English is quite good but not consistently so; there are awkward phrasings here and there. I kept wondering why her editor didn't correct them. The story itself is kind of oddly paced, and there's a lot more telling than showing. The narrator and her best friend have an idyllic childhood in pre-war Belgrade and Sarajevo, then are separated when Lara, the narrator, falls in love with an American visitor and emigrates to Washington, DC. Meanwhile, Marija, her bestie stays to become a reporter supporting the Bosnians. Lara lives the life that she and and Marija fantasized about as teenagers, but she becomes increasingly disillusioned with her husband and their marriage. Marija disappears during the war, and Lara is forced to conclude that she is dead. Unsurprisingly, she's not, and she reappears later in the book as a saintly survivor of war crimes, living in LA and driving a red Corvette. Lara has spent the intervening time conducting 2 year transatlantic affair, having a kid she treats like an adult, and blowing her academic career out of the water. I didn't much like Lara. I thought her decisions throughout the book were impulsive and immature. The unraveling of her marriage describes what I imagine is a genuine dynamic between people who are from different countries, meet and fall in love in one partner's country and end up living in the other one. The idea of America can never live up to the idealized vision non-Americans have of life here, and that must add pressure to such relationships. But overall, I wasn't impressed with the book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    I received this book in exchange for a review. Very, very good read ! The book is about a friendship between Lara & Marjia; one Bosnian, one Serbian. The story extends a friendship that survives despite the war between their countries and the personal hardships they endure. One marries an American and moves to the U.S.; the other stays behind and works for a news outlet reporting for a newspaper. One having to overcome culture shock, the guilt of leaving her family & friends behind with the war g I received this book in exchange for a review. Very, very good read ! The book is about a friendship between Lara & Marjia; one Bosnian, one Serbian. The story extends a friendship that survives despite the war between their countries and the personal hardships they endure. One marries an American and moves to the U.S.; the other stays behind and works for a news outlet reporting for a newspaper. One having to overcome culture shock, the guilt of leaving her family & friends behind with the war going on, being homesick and the other one working in a basement putting flyer containing news reports together, placing them throughout the city; traversing the landscape while having to avoid snipers. After the war, one seeks justice through a group that is helping locate War Criminals and tells the horrors of the war especially the brutality toward women. The other's desperate search for her friend who she left behind. Pros: The author really draws the reader in by making you feel, smell, and hear all the things going on in their lives. From their childhood to their college days to present day. You can feel the danger and the anguish each character is going through & the decisions that they make that are life altering. You are also exposed to the sheer ugliness and brutality of war, it's victims and the devastation it caused. There is no graphic violence but the way Domnica Radulescu describes the violent war crimes is so cleverly haunting that you feel the inhumanity right down to your bones. It is an honest, thought provoking, mind bending read. You will have a hard time putting it down. Cons: The first chapter or two was kinda slow.

  26. 5 out of 5

    William Friedrich

    Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu is a superb work of modern literary fiction that succeeds in telling a difficult story of survival from the horrific war of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the early nineties with haunting poetic depth and sensitivity. I was mesmerized by the voice of the narrator, Lara, a cerebral Serbian woman who grows up in the former Yugoslavia and the beauty and strength of her childhood friend, the Bosnian Marija, a passionate writer and courageous survivor of atr Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu is a superb work of modern literary fiction that succeeds in telling a difficult story of survival from the horrific war of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the early nineties with haunting poetic depth and sensitivity. I was mesmerized by the voice of the narrator, Lara, a cerebral Serbian woman who grows up in the former Yugoslavia and the beauty and strength of her childhood friend, the Bosnian Marija, a passionate writer and courageous survivor of atrocity. After a delicious incursion into the idyllic years of their childhood in Belgrade and Sarajevo, the story line is bifurcated in two separate paths that follow Lara's immigration story to America, as she marries a dashing American intellectual she meets in Belgrade in the pre-war days while the line of Marija's destiny is abruptly broken in the summer of 1995. Radulescu does a wonderful job illustrating the terrifying silence and absence that opens up between her and her beloved friend after the massacres of Srebrenica. She creates a palpable sense of suspense and tension. The book also explores the visceral and overpowering bonds of motherhood, the complexities of marital life and the irresistible attraction towards the danger of adultery. The reunion between the two friends is of epic dimensions and full of melancholy beauty and devastating tenderness. Country of Red Azaleas is a much needed and well crafted story of war and displacement as lived and survived by powerful women.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    There’s an old game I’ve heard people play (and have played myself) about what might be a worse thing to happen. Players imagine the worst thing that could happen and are challenged by other players trying to come up with something worse. The challenge is followed by a long discussion about which is worse and why. Domnica Radulescu’s novel, Country of Red Azaleas, is not quite a game of what’s worse, but it strongly reminded me of one. The two protagonists of the novel, Lara and Marija, both hav There’s an old game I’ve heard people play (and have played myself) about what might be a worse thing to happen. Players imagine the worst thing that could happen and are challenged by other players trying to come up with something worse. The challenge is followed by a long discussion about which is worse and why. Domnica Radulescu’s novel, Country of Red Azaleas, is not quite a game of what’s worse, but it strongly reminded me of one. The two protagonists of the novel, Lara and Marija, both have tough lives. One lives through war and rape. The other has more existential, less tangible problems. They can’t help comparing their lives and offering sympathy—not to see which of them had it worse, but because they are very empathetic women... Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I've been having trouble starting this review, because I feel that anything I say won't accurately describe the depth and breadth of how this book made me feel, and how much I learned. It is the story of two young women coming of age in the fall of the USSR- one is able to leave, and one is not. I don't want to give anything away, but the detail given to the history was phenomenal and still storylike enough that I didn't feel like I was reading history. However, more importantly, the raw and rea I've been having trouble starting this review, because I feel that anything I say won't accurately describe the depth and breadth of how this book made me feel, and how much I learned. It is the story of two young women coming of age in the fall of the USSR- one is able to leave, and one is not. I don't want to give anything away, but the detail given to the history was phenomenal and still storylike enough that I didn't feel like I was reading history. However, more importantly, the raw and real descriptions of the characters emotions, their thought processes and relationships allowed me to identify with the characters more than I have ever identified with any character in a book. I finished the book in two days, not a testament to its brevity but my inability to put it down, despite work and school. I couldn't recommend this book more highly. Please read it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Rogers

    This is the story of Lara and Mariji, two friends in Belgrade as the Bosnian war of the 90's is embarking. Both become involved in politics when in college. Lara meets a young American Journalist and fallsin love. They marry and move to the states to Washington, D.C.. Mariji stays in Sarajevo as a journalist. They drift apart being in two different countries but Lara gets reports on the war and fears for her friend. The horrors of war take a toll on Mariji and all is revealed to Lara as they con This is the story of Lara and Mariji, two friends in Belgrade as the Bosnian war of the 90's is embarking. Both become involved in politics when in college. Lara meets a young American Journalist and fallsin love. They marry and move to the states to Washington, D.C.. Mariji stays in Sarajevo as a journalist. They drift apart being in two different countries but Lara gets reports on the war and fears for her friend. The horrors of war take a toll on Mariji and all is revealed to Lara as they connect in later years. Is never enjoyable to read of war be fiction or truth. Was difficult at times to read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Buried In Print

    Following Amazon's purchase of GoodReads, I no longer post my reviews here. If you would like to read my thoughts on this book, you can view them in the following places: BuriedInPrint BookLikes LibraryThing Posting these links does not constitute permission to duplicate these thoughts anywhere, including corporate-owned sites. If you read/liked/clicked through to see this review here on GR, many thanks. Following Amazon's purchase of GoodReads, I no longer post my reviews here. If you would like to read my thoughts on this book, you can view them in the following places: BuriedInPrint BookLikes LibraryThing Posting these links does not constitute permission to duplicate these thoughts anywhere, including corporate-owned sites. If you read/liked/clicked through to see this review here on GR, many thanks.

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