Made up of eight interconnected short stories, Love and Obstacles details various aspects of a Bosnian’s life as he begins in Sarajevo as a child and then, due to horrific warfare, lives in Chicago as an adult. While each story has moments of great depth and even greater hilarity, I must admit that I found myself largely uninterested for most of the book.
Don’t misunderstand, a few of the stories such as “Szmura’s Room,” “The Bees, Part I,” and “Death of the American Commando” were delightful reads, but I simply had trouble connecting to the others. I believe this was because many of the stories focus upon the narrator as he strives to further his writing career, and the writer-as-the-main-character has become a bit of a turn-off for me of late.
Competently written with an expansive vocabulary, Hemon is able to offer insight into another perspective of life that most of us cannot imagine. Furthermore, he understands people—warts and all. When he focuses on what it is to be an imperfect human—not his character as the writer—he really shines.