Catch the rabbit

Lana Bastašić, 1986-

Book - 2021

"It's been twelve years since inseparable childhood friends Lejla and Sara have spoken, but an unexpected phone call from Lejla thrusts Sara back in a world of memories, language and relationships she's tried hard to forget."

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FICTION/Bastasic Lana
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Psychological fiction
Brooklyn, NY : Restless Books 2021.
Main Author
Lana Bastašić, 1986- (author )
Item Description
Originally published in Serbo-Croatian as Uhvati zeca by Kontrast izdavaštvo, Belgrade, Serbia, 2018.
Physical Description
248 pages ; 18 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Once upon a time, two Bosnian girls arrived at kindergarten with paper-doll selfies. Sara's mother made hers, garbed in pink and glittery. Lejla's was blank. "[I]t's not like I wear the same clothes every day," she insisted, as if already aware that future incarnations--as Leja, Lela, Lili, Lala--would be necessary to survive. Despite remaining inseparable BFFs in college, their lives diverge, and 12 years pass without contact. Lejla breaks the silence by calling Sara, who escaped to Dublin. Their strained conversation leaves Sara feeling "dirty with my mother tongue," yet Lejla's claim that her 20-years-missing brother is in Vienna convinces Sara to fly to Zagreb, bus to Mostar, pick up Lejla, and road-trip to Vienna. The journey becomes a startling confrontation of memory, boundaries, disappearance, and identities bartered, elided, imagined, and betrayed. Bastašić's intense examination of female friendship provides a portal into the tumultuous recent history of the former Yugoslavia. Awarded the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature, Bastašić's compelling and enlightening first novel arrives in the U.S. in her own agile translation, sure to engage urbane anglophone readers.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Bastašić's EU Prize--winning debut follows a Yugoslav-born woman's stunning Alice in Wonderland--style journey through Bosnia after returning home. Sara is living in Dublin when she gets a pleading phone call from Lejla, her childhood best friend, after 12 years of silence between the two 30-something women. Lejla wants Sara to take her to Vienna to help find her older brother, Armin. Unable to resist Lejla, Sara flies to Zagreb and takes the bus to Mostar, her hometown. Along the way, Sara flashes back to memories of school, birthday parties, and adolescent misadventures with boys. As the magnetic Lejla and Sara grow older, Sara's identity becomes so wrapped up in Lejla's that their personalities feed on each other. In the present, as they travel into desolate regions of Bosnia still bearing scars from the war, Sara, reliving her past, realizes that Lejla has created a "better version of me," while Lejla needs their newfound connection to give her the courage to find her brother--and perhaps herself. Like twin Alices, their wonderland is both terrifying and enlightening, from the white rabbit Sara steals to cement her relationship with Lejla to a deep descent into the catacombs. Sara desperately wants to keep the childhood Lejla she once knew all to herself, but that seems less likely with each new adventure and disturbing realization during the search for Armin. The narrative reaches a greatly satisfying climax, built on themes of rediscovering the past, memories, women's friendships, language, and identity. This unforgettable tour de force surprises at every turn. (June)

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Review by Library Journal Review

DEBUT Bosnian native Sara, who enjoys her life in Dublin working as a translator and writer and living with her computer programmer boyfriend, hears from her childhood friend Lejla after 12 years of silence. She must come to Mostar and drive Lejla to Vienna to find Lejla's exiled brother. As Sara travels through her native country, still scarred by war, she is startled to hear her first language spoken and realizes that she must grow a new skin. Much more than a female buddy narrative combined with a road trip, this debut novel deftly explores the relationship of language and self-identity, an issue heightened by Sara's parents having changed her name so she can fit into her new community. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, Sara relives and reassesses her fraught and complex friendship with Lejla, descending into multiple rabbit holes of the past and discovering that important events are not always interpreted the same way. VERDICT Winner of the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature and translated into English by the author, this novel is an inventive, multilayered study of friendship, culture and history in a country recovering from war.--Jacqueline Snider, Toronto

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A Yugoslav-born writer's debut novel is a tale of fraught female friendship. Translated from Serbo-Croatian to English by Bastašić herself, this tale explores the relationship of Sara and Lejla, childhood friends who grew up amid the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. Twelve years after their last interaction, Sara--who now lives in Dublin--receives an urgent phone call from her friend and returns to Bosnia to help Lejla find her exiled brother, Armin. Sara narrates the story as a marginally fictionalized tale of her reunion with the reckless Lejla: "I am the one telling the story. I can do whatever I want with [Lejla]. She can't do anything. She is three hits on the keyboard." The two friends journey together to Vienna to search for Lejla's brother, reconstructing their shared past and reconciling their differing memories of childhood events as they go. Lejla always pushed Sara beyond her comfort zone, and she resists easy characterization on the page. "Even now," Sara says, "within this text, I can almost feel her fidget." The bookish Sara has always defined herself in contrast to the wild Lejla, even when the contrast exists entirely in her own mind. Their friendship was important but also damaging to Sara because of the way she internalized this comparison. She refers to Lejla's "subtle violence" and the ways Lejla influenced her behavior. It becomes clear that her youthful perception of this influence may not be entirely accurate. As the two travel north, Sara has to reconcile her memories (and her desire to fit them into a narrative) with the reality of adult Lejla. As children, Sara relied on Lejla as an ally: "She transformed two separate individuals into the two of us, something ours, indivisible, strong, and sinewy, spiteful before the whole universe," yet after 12 years she is confronted with how they've grown up, apart. A moving exploration of how perspective characterizes friendship, sometimes to a fault. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.