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Book Review: How My Mother Met Stalin: Eighteen Very Short Stories by Borko Jovanovic

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For many of us, “the old country” conjures up images of our grandparents, who told stories of life in another country before coming to the United States. For some though, the stories remain in our minds and must be written. The pace of life, hardships endured, and thoughts of family, food, and conversation are too precious to leave undocumented.

Borko Jovanovic is one such author. He has published extensively, both in English and Serbian, and his works include plays, poetry, and stories such as those told here in How My Mother Met Stalin.

One of the joys in reading such a collection is the hints into the author’s personality. For beyond telling stories, authors in biographical pieces are also revealing themselves to us.

Jovanovic comes across as a gentle, thoughtful writer, a man who is kind, not only to his family, but to others, as shown in the humorous story of a building handyman with little understanding of language or of his duties. The author’s thoughts turn poignant in the personal essay “We Are All Equal in My Country” regarding his decision to leave his home country of Yugoslavia.

How My Mother Met Stalin will be of special interest to those who share a similar experience, and certainly the foods, language, and customs of Serbia will bring back special memories to readers with a similar background.

This lovely collection shows how far we travel, how much we can achieve in life, and still we yearn to look back. We go home in our quiet thoughts. We go home again and again, to memories around the table, recalling special foods, such as bread and chocolate; a particularly sweet essay. As readers we are able to share in Jovanovic’s experiences as we reflect on the sadness of times past and people now departed. We are richer for the opportunity to share in his reminiscences, which leave us with a future filled with memories of who we were and how far we’ve come.

How My Mother Met Stalin is filled with humor, history, literature, but most of all remembering home and family.

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About Helen Gallagher