Aleksandar Hemon’s lives begin in Sarajevo, a small, blissful city where a young boy’s life is consumed with street soccer with his casually multiethnic group of friends, resentment of his younger sister, and trips abroad with his engineer-cum-beekeeper father. Here, a young man’s life is about poking at the pretensions of the city’s elders with American music, bad poetry, and slightly better journalism. And then Chicago: watching war break out in Sarajevo and the city come under siege, with no way to return home; the Hemons fleeing Sarajevo with the family dog, leaving behind all else they had ever known; and Hemon himself starting a new life, his own family, in this new city.
And yet this is not really a memoir. Like Hemon’s fiction, The Book of My Lives defies convention and expectation. It is a love song to two different cities; it is a heartbreaking paean to the bonds of family; it is a stirring exhortation to go out and play soccer—and not for the exercise. It is a book driven by passion but built on fierce intelligence, devastating experience, and sharp insight. And like the best narratives, it is a book that will leave you a different reader—a different person, with a new way of looking at the world—when you’ve finished. For fans of Hemon’s fiction, The Book of My Lives is simply indispensable; for the uninitiated, it is the perfect introduction to one of the great writers of our time.
The Book of My Lives