My Cat Yugoslavia

A Novel
Length: 7 hrs and 50 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4 out of 5 stars (26 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A love story set in two countries in two radically different moments in time, bringing together a young man, his mother, a boa constrictor, and one capricious cat.

In 1980s Yugoslavia, a young Muslim girl is married off to a man she hardly knows, but what was meant to be a happy match goes quickly wrong. Soon thereafter her country is torn apart by war, and she and her family flee. Years later her son, Bekim, grows up a social outcast in present-day Finland, not just an immigrant in a country suspicious of foreigners but a gay man in an unaccepting society. Aside from casual hookups, his only friend is a boa constrictor whom, improbably - he is terrified of snakes - he lets roam his apartment. Then, during a visit to a gay bar, Bekim meets a talking cat who moves in with him and his snake. It is this witty, charming, manipulative creature who starts Bekim on a journey back to Kosovo to confront his demons and make sense of the magical, cruel, incredible history of his family. And it is this that, in turn, enables him finally to open himself to true love - which he will find in the most unexpected place.

©2017 Pajtim Statovci. Translation copyright 2017 by David Hackston (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"[Statovci] knows how to disorient - and disarm.... This dark debut has a daring, irrepressible spirit." ( The Atlantic)
"Powerful.... Dramatic.... Statovci is a tremendous talent. This debut novel - a deserved winner of the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize for Best First Novel in 2014 - has an intensity and power that demands a second reading." ( Library Journal )
"An elegant, allegorical portrait of lives lived at the margin...A fine debut, layered with meaning and shades of sorrow." ( Kirkus Reviews)

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Weirdly Imaginative

So this guy meets a talking cat in a bar and takes him home…where the cat doesn’t get along with the guy’s pet boa constrictor.

My Cat Yugoslavia was quite a book. It’s a family drama, a refugee tale, but also a fable. How is the cat like Yugoslavia? The guy—Bekim—is drawn to the cat despite the cat’s sarcasm, cruelty and sometimes violence. Is that how he thinks Yugoslavia treated him? It’s how his father sometimes treated him. But that’s another story.

Half the novel is the history of Bekim’s parents. His mother follows Kosovan/Albanian tradition in marrying a virtual stranger, then becoming a dutiful wife and mother. The family flees Kosovo for Finland (the flight episode was a highlight) to escape the Serbian war of the 1990s, and that’s where Bekim grows up.

The narrators, Edoardo Ballerini and Alison Fraser, were both excellent. Alison Fraser’s soft Kosovan accent and almost shy voice was just right. Overall, an intriguing listen.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Loved it!

Interesting story line- about the human condition. The opening about floored me.
Does contain a few rather graphic descriptions of homosexual contact, in a very intimate way. So if that would offend you, don’t get this book. But it plays into the storyline very well, and the writer weaves tale, that midway through you get lost in.