An American man falling in love with a Croatian woman and the two moving to Croatia to be together… isn’t that what all romantic movies and stories are made of?
Well, almost, because then life happens. This is a beautiful and humorous story about an American navigating his way through Croatian culture eventually finding his footing in his newfound home.
I picked up this book as a part of my pre Croatian holiday research material.
The title had me at hello.
I was compelled to purchase it immediately, and I’m so glad I did. Despite being the slow reader that I am, I lapped this book up in one day! Primarily because Cody’s style of writing is so engaging and witty.
It is almost like you’re meeting an old friend (perhaps in one of the Croatian cafe’s as he has described in the book) who has this plethora of stories that he can’t wait to tell you.
I am pretty certain why I found this book a lot more fascinating is because I am an Indian and our culture is a lot like the Croatian culture that Cody describes it to be.
Right from loud family gathering, intrusive neighbours (read as well meaning and extended family), family patriarchs, showing love through food, long queues, nepotism, yada, yada, yada… I got it all.
For an American, this is all very alien and makes for very amusing culture clashes. The funniest part of it is at the beginning of the book, when he meets his future wife to be, he thinks Croatia meant Russia.
So you can imagine the series of discoveries he has made since he has been with his ‘Croatian Girl’.
Throughout his book, he integrates his observations with humour, sometimes with pictorial references that make his anecdotes even funnier. I found myself laughing out loud several times. Everything is not hunky-dory though.
He isn’t afraid to sail into the rough waters as talks about the war, the difficulty in finding employment, the nepotism, among other topics that are the harsh realities of living in Croatia.
As time goes on, he is confronted by the dilemma that many couples in a cross-culture marriage face – how to raise their child. While trying to figure that out, he evaluates his loyalty to his adoptive home vs his actual home.
Where is his home actually? Quite an intriguing question for an expatriate, I would imagine.
Cody Brown is a beautiful writer. The book is derived from the blog he writes about Zagreb called ‘Zablogreb’, and the text is very informal and blog-like. There is a paragraph describing Zagreb, when he moved there first, which is perhaps one of the most beautiful odes to a city.
This is a really good book to get the lowdown on Croatian culture if you’re planning to visit or have visited it in the past. It also makes a good read for anyone is a cross cultural marriage as you’re always discovering something new about your partner and where they came from. All in all, a quick and interesting read.
The book follows the authors life as he meets his Croatian wife and then they both decided to move to Croatia after a few years of being together. Through essays (primarily written for his blog ‘Zablogreb’) he talks about how different Croatian culture is different from the American culture that he was brought up with, his struggles and finally how over time, quite unknowingly, he fit into the Croatian culture.
Favourite Quotes: ‘In Zagreb (and Croatia) time is never forced upon you. For some reason the culture seems to put less emphasis on getting to the end of the line and more emphasis on the journey there.’
‘In Bulgaria, a sweater is something a kid wears when her mother feels a breeze.’ (Yes, this is about Bulgaria here, but it is true of all Balkan states, and India too! )
‘Split still as a whole, has a certain pace that serves as a lull, a lethargic gait that moves in such a counter-rhythm to the modern world, that you know that it is the true bridge of continuity between the present and the past. Life in Split, like the walls of Diocletian’s Palace, seems to stubbornly resist the new.’
Perfect Place to Read: Snuggled in your quilt on a rainy day, yes, with a cup of coffee.
If the book was a Food: I think it might be Croatian coffee. One cup over hours and hours of coversations