Pretty Birds

Pretty Birds

by Scott Simon
4.7 8


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Pretty Birds by Scott Simon

The universally respected NPR journalist and bestselling memoirist Scott Simon makes a dazzling fiction debut. In Pretty Birds, Simon creates an intense, startling, and tragicomic portrait of a classic character–a young woman in the besieged city of Sarajevo in the early 1990s.

In the spring of 1992, Irena Zaric is a star on her Sarajevo high school basketball team, a tough, funny teenager who has taught her parrot, Pretty Bird, to do a decent imitation of a ball hitting a hoop. Irena wears her hair short like k. d. lang’s, and she loves Madonna, Michael Jordan, and Johnny Depp. But while Irena rocks out and shoots baskets with her friends, her beloved city has become a battleground. When the violence and terror of “ethnic cleansing” against Muslims begins, Irena and her family, brutalized by Serb soldiers, flee for safety across the river that divides the city.

If once Irena knew of war only from movies and history books, now she knows its reality. She steals from the dead to buy food. She scuttles under windows in her own home to dodge bullets. She risks her life to communicate with an old Serb school friend and teammate. Even Pretty Bird has started to mimic the sizzle of mortar fire.

In a city starved for work, a former assistant principal offers Irena a vague job, “duties as assigned,” which she accepts. She begins by sweeping floors, but soon, under the tutelage of a cast of rogues and heroes, she learns to be a sniper, biding her time, never returning to the same perch, and searching her targets for the “mist” that marks a successful shot. Ultimately, Irena’s new vocation will lead to complex and cataclysmic consequences for herself and those she loves.

As a journalist, Scott Simon covered the siege of Sarajevo. Here, in a novel as suspenseful as a John le Carré thriller, he re-creates the atmosphere of that place and time and the pain and dark humor of its people. Pretty Birds is a bold departure, and the auspicious beginning of yet another brilliant career for its author.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812973303
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/09/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 428,506
Product dimensions: 7.78(w) x 5.10(h) x 0.83(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

SCOTT SIMON is the host of National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon. He has covered ten wars, from El Salvador to Iraq, and has won every major award in broadcasting, including the Peabody and the Emmy. His memoir, Home and Away, rose to the top of the Los Angeles Times nonfiction bestseller list. His second book, Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, was named Barnes & Noble’s Sports Book of the Year. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughter.

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Pretty Birds 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Through Simon's amazing writing, this book puts you staring down the barrel of a gun just like the 14 year old female sniper during the war in Bosnia. You won't want to set it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this was one of the best books I have ever read!!!! It was so touching and also sad but it had a great theme and was a very interesting theme since many of us don't ever hear about the war in Sarajevo
Guest More than 1 year ago
Scott Simon's 'Pretty Birds' is everything you want in a good novel. It is one of the best books I've read in 10 years. His storytelling ability brings you straight into Sarajevo and the characters are so believable. This is a book that you never want to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that the '92-'96 Balkan war was something I did not pay much attention to. Recent release of video showing Serbian atrocities and a book promo with the author on NPR (radio) drew me to this novel. This book is invaluable for its depiction of life in the city of Sarajevo (Bosnia) during the seige. I am struck at how very much this book seems to be geared toward young adult readers, but is not advertised as such. Essentiallly, the book is about a group of young adults who comprise a cell of Bosnian security (resistance) forces. The main character, Irena, goes from high school basketball standout to girl sniper.