From Annamarie Beckel, Sue Goyette, and Craig Francis Power – judges for the 2011 Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers:

Braco is a compelling, captivating, and fast-paced novel, from its vivid and intriguing prologue set in Srebrenica to an ending that fits, if not satisfies. From the moment the reader meets Atif, a teenaged Bosnian civilian, s/he never stops caring about the fate of this boy and his family. The author handles extremely well the horrific subject matter of Bosnian refugees fleeing the fall of Srebrenica in 1995, the massacre of Bosnian men, and the frustrating inability of the Dutch peacekeepers to protect them. These events could easily be confusing to the uninitiated, but the author writes so clearly that the reader is never lost in history, space, or time. The novel is beautifully executed with regard to plot, pacing, point of view, and setting, with a cast of characters who are complex and well-developed.”

From Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo:

“A gripping fictional account of one of the darkest moments of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Lesleyanne Ryan writes with unswerving force, and Braco is direct and forceful; an impressive debut.”

From Mark Anthony Jarman, author of My White Planet:

“A bombshell of a book… harrowing and instructive and maddening.”

From Mark Sampson, Quill and Quire:

“Ryan infuses her story with genuine suspense: until the very end, the reader remains unsure whether Atif will survive his journey. The author is also adept at capturing the strife of the period, from the casual lies Serbian soldiers told themselves in order to enact their massacres to the impotence of UN forces to the use of cigarettes as currency.”

From Denise Flint, Downhome Magazine:

Braco is all about the people. It’s a story of the small events that can be lost on a canvas of overwhelmning ones and how they can have a major impact on people’s lives. It’s also a story about how the most casual acts – offering a coat to a cold old man, helping an exhausted woman carry water to her family – can mark the difference between being a good person and a bad one. Over and over the characters face the same choice: you may not be able to help the world, but you can help one person in one small way. What do you do?”

From Morgan Murray, Newfoundland Quarterly:

“These stories of our darkest moments, which Ryan tells so compellingly, are the most important of all to relate and to hear. While it is fiction, a moment spent with these characters tells truths far greater, with far more force, than any amount of abstract numbers and swooping arrows ever could. Braco speaks of the part of us that can be charged with hate and do monstrous things. The part of us that can be filled with impotence and keep us up at night with regret and the part of us that somehow keeps our bloodied and broken bodies walking through the woods just ahead of the monsters. Ryan delivers us from abstraction. She give dates back their days, the climate back its weather, casualties back their faces, famine its hunger pains, war its horror, refugees their heartbreak, and death its bitter, retched stink. Ryan casts us as villains, victims, and bystanders. She puts us on either end of the monster’s gun – capable of killing, being killed, or standing idly by. And the net result leaves us not with answers as to why, but with the survivor’s quandary of now what?”

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