As Europe struggles to admit refugees from Syria, it is easy to forget that not long ago it was the citizens of the former Yugoslavia who were seeking asylum in western and northern Europe. Pajtim Statovci’s novel tells the story of two generations of Kosovan Albanians who have fled to Finland. Emine was born in Kosovo and raised according to traditional values. She expects to spend her life obeying her husband and giving birth to his children. Moving to Finland makes her realise that there is more to life than serving her husband’s pleasure. Her son, Bekim, is torn between two cultures – he is a Muslim, but he has been brought up in Finland. His sexual orientation means that he will never be accepted back in Kosovo.
The two plot lines contrast mother and son, each suffering from a sense of alienation and profound displacement. The emotional havoc both the characters face is remarkably similar despite their different circumstances. The narratives are intertwined and do not follow in chronological order, as they would in a traditional realist