By Lada Vukić
Translated from the Croatian by Christina Pribićević-Zorić
Ten-year-old Emil lives with his mother in a rented flat in an unnamed European city. While she works hard in a low-paid job, Emil struggles to understand school work, abstract maths and the motivations of the adults that surround him, He is a special boy who talks to some people normally while with others is fully or partially mute. His uncle Jakov thinks that everything to do with Emil is about intimacy and trust and searches for a way to get close to him, while blind Professor Antun delights in his acute, almost magical hearing abilities and the local drug dealer connives to take advantage of the boy's guilelessness.
Special Needs reads like a modern-day To Kill a Mockingbird, where the heart-breaking truth of life is narrated through the voice of an innocent child. With the perception and skill of an artist in charge of her craft, the author has created for us the unforgettable character of Emil, who understands everything and yet is so rarely understood.
"Special Needs’ true strength is the tightly controlled narrative, preserved beautifully in Christina Pribichevich-Zorić’s confident translation. Vukić never loses the voice of her young protagonist, maintaining the authenticity and appeal of Emil and his uniquely matter-of-fact worldview, while letting his self-awareness to begin to slowly evolve as the story turns in an unexpected direction. This work, her first, which won the V.B.Z. award as the best unpublished novel of 2016, is steady, strong, and a subtly different take on the exceptional child narrator, one that may be of particular interest to those who have spent time with the extraordinary ordinary people who see the world in a way that exposes truths we so often pretend to ignore."
Joe Schreiber, roughghosts
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