Book: Homeland: A Novel
Author: Fernando Aramburu
Review by: Kirk Bowman, Full Professor and Rise Up & Care Term Chair in Global Development & Identity at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Tech; Founder and Director, Rise Up & Care
The Basque Country in Spain fascinates me. With a seemingly impenetrable language, a small population and a powerful sense of exceptionalism, the Basques often overachieve, including having the highest per capita number of Michelin star restaurants in the world and three (out of 20) English Premier League soccer managers. After several visits and wanting to understand more, I turned to Fernando Aramburu’s acclaimed novel, Homeland.
Homeland explores the lives of two ordinary families in an ordinary Basque village. These families share many of the commendable defining characteristics of Basque life and identity: enduring family friendships, a love of cycling and sports, strong matriarchs, lifelong relationships with school cohorts and a powerful sense of belonging.
The bonds between and within these two families are shattered when the Basque separatist group ETA murders one of the fathers. Best lifelong friends, familial bonds and faith slip away. Tension, fear, paranoia, and guilt ensue. Aramburu deftly explores the players involved over 125 short chapters.
Homeland illustrates the enduring tragedy of ETA’s armed campaign, and how victimization and exaggerated loyalties can tragically produce wounds that can never heal. As politics and societies become increasingly tribal, Aramburu provides a powerful endorsement of empathy and forgiveness. A challenging but immensely rewarding novel. Strongly recommended.
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