Slovenia was a toddler of a country when Erica Johnson arrived there in 1993 to marry her black-haired poet lover, Aleš Debeljak. Slovenia had only won its independence from Yugoslavia two years earlier; war still raged in Croatia and Bosnia to the south. What was she thinking?
Johnson Debeljak answers that question in Forbidden Bread, her engrossing memoir about abandoning the life of a Manhattan commercial banker to move to a nascent post-communist state where most people still grew their own cabbage and considered themselves lucky to have a tiny Soviet car to drive. She uses her own story as the backdrop for Slovenia’s story, with its tumultuous history and rich, poetry-filled culture.
From her battles with power-abusing bureaucrats, to worries about bombs falling on her wedding, to ethnic jokes and fussing in-laws, Johnson Debeljak provides layers of detail that let the reader really understand what it would be like to live in a land so foreign. This is arm-chair travel at its best – a trip to the true heart of a country.
My review was first published in the Internet Review of Books. In addition to being a terrific book, reading this one allows my to scratch it off my LibraryThing Early Reviewer list.
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