We Are All That's Left by Carrie Arcos
Overview: This duel narrative recounts the horrors faced by a mother and daughter decades apart. Zara is injured in a terrorist attack in modern day Rhode Island and left to deal with both her wounds and her mother's coma. Nadja, her mother's, story of trauma began long before that, though, during the Bosnian War when she was only a teen. The intersecting stories work to bring the distant mother and daughter closer together as they learn to cope with the pain of their experiences. Overall: 4
Characters: 3.5 The two parts of the book felt like two totally different books. I would give five stars to Nadja and her family (and adoptive family) from the third person account of her life during the war. I felt like I got to know these people, their fears, and their motivations.
Unfortunately, though the present day storyline was told in first person, I never felt like I got to know Zara or anyone who touches her life. Everyone there just felt a touch stiff and generic.
Plot: 4 This is where the book really shined. I love the concept of exploring both the realities of refugees and attack victims, and the lingering mental effects of these experiences. While Nadja's story kept me at the edge of my seat the entire time because of its more engaging, earnest voice, I thought that Zara and Nadja's story arch was beautiful, and the ending left me feeling warm, fuzzy, and hopeful as they both opened up to each other.
Writing: 3.5 Again, Nadja's story sparkled for me. The third person narration was filled with lyrical sentences and pulsed with Nadja's sense of anxiety. I completely enjoyed this section. In the present, though, the chapters were written more as summaries of events than actual scenes letting the reader experience what Zara does. If the author had left the reader a bit more space with trust that they would understand the nuance, these chapters would match with Nadja's a bit better. All in all, Arcos delivered an interesting story that sadly proves that we have yet to overcome the darkness that leads people to attack one another, but there is a hope for healing.
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