In Zagreb is an unusual museum: it displays mementos of broken relationships. Each exhibit describes a unique story of a broken heart, of love gone awry.
When Katia and Goran visit the museum, Goran stumbles upon an exhibit that seems to be addressed to him, from a girl he met in a Sarajevo refugee camp at age fourteen. A reminder of two days spent together while he and his mother and brother waited anxiously for visas to America to escape the war.
Encouraged by Katia, a therapist, to reconnect with his lost past, Goran confronts the youth he lost during the Yugoslav Wars. Similarly Katia, adopted by Americans at one week old after her birth mother was murdered in a gangland killing in Brazil, heads back to Brazil to uncover her own family history.
Meanwhile Tyler, a military veteran and one of Katia’s patients, attempts to put the Afghan war behind him, and finds love in unexpected circumstances.
Drawing upon his own experiences working in conflict zones, Gary Barker’s powerful novels dive deep into human love and longing. Crossing continents, and set against backdrops of war, deprivation, and violence, The Museum of Lost Love is a soulful testament to the resilience of the human heart.
GARY BARKER is an author, researcher, and human rights activist. He is founder and director of Promundo, an international organization that works with men and boys in more than 25 countries to achieve gender equality and end violence against women. He has been awarded an Ashoka Fellowship and an Open Society Fellowship for his work in conflict zones. His previous novels include Luisa’s Last Words, Mary of Kivu, and The Afghan Vampires Book Club (co-written with Michael Kaufman). Barker lives in Washington, DC.
I remember reading a piece in the newspaper about the museum at the heart of this book, a place where people send in things that remind them of lost loves. Weaving in between the narratives of Katia, Goran and Tyler, are those of the displays in the museum.
Katia and Goran both look into their own pasts to find answers to questions they didn’t admit to having; while Tyler is trying to look forward, putting his new life and son first, moving on from his wartime experiences.
Each goes on a journey, literally and figuratively into themselves in order to find a way forward, to put lost loves to right and find out who they truly are.
Goran returns to Bosnia and seeks out first his father and then his first love, filling in the past, both of his country and the people he left behind.
Katia goes in search of her birth mother’s family, and finds not only that she is part of a family but also a tragic history.
Finally Tyler unexpectedly finds himself in love and raising the son he never knew he had, when tragedy strikes and he discovers the man he really is.
This book is slight but powerful, love is an incredibly potent emotion and Barker looks at all its forms; from familial, to sexual and innocent romance. He is interested in how people interact and the importance of someone’s capacity to sustain themselves.
The characters are well written and believable, the plots intersect nicely and flow well, swapping comfortably between the three protagonists without any jarring.
I found it an interesting way to look at violent parts of history (the war in Sarajevo, the gang violence in Brazil’s favelas, the recent conflict in Afghanistan) and show that love can blossom even under the shadow of such tragedy and suffering.
*I was kindly gifted this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.