The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

Note to Bookish Society Round Table Teens: I nearly chose this for our September book.

From the publisher:

In 1992, Amra was a teen in Bihac, Bosnia, when her best friend said they couldn’t speak anymore. Her friend didn’t say why, but Amra knew the reason: Amra was Muslim. It was the first sign her world was changing. Then Muslim refugees from other Bosnian cities started arriving, fleeing Serbian persecution. When the tanks rolled into Bihac, bringing her own city under seige, Amra’s happy life in her peaceful city vanished.
But there is light even in the darkest of times, and she discovered that light in the warm, bonfire eyes of a stray cat. The little calico had followed the refugees into the city and lost her own family. At first, Amra doesn’t want to bother with a stray; her family doesn’t have the money to keep a pet. But with gentle charm this kitty finds her way into everyone’s heart, and after a few near miracles when she seems to save the family, how could they turn her away?
Here is the stunning true story of a teen who, even in the brutality of war, never wavered in her determination to obtain an education, maintain friendships, and even find a first love-and the cat who gave comfort, hope, and maybe even served as the family’s guardian spirit.

My take on it:

Seriously, if your teen (or you) isn’t up on the history of Bosnia, this is the book that will do it. I’m continually on the hunt for stories that bring us together as humans. You can read dates and names in history books ad infinitum, you may remember them for a test. If you hear someone’s story? Oh, that stays in your heart.

Amra’s story is gut-wrenching. Her life goes from being a typical sixteen-year-old looking forward to college to living the reality of wartime existence.

Some background: War was declared in 1992, and Serbs turned on the Muslims in the country. Though Amra’s family had never practiced its religion, Serbs believed Muslims were terrorists who needed to be removed from society.

One day a cat follows Amra home, and her mother calls are Maci (Bosnian for cat) although they try to send it away, the cat keeps coming back and plays a part in their daily lives. At one point, the cat saves Amra from being swept up into one of the rape camps.

This is a page-turner for sure, and I keep recommending it to people forgetting that it has a September 8, 2020 publishing date. Since it’s nearly time, I wanted to review it now so that you could pre-order it.

Published by Jenn Naughton

JENN NAUGHTON is a professional book reviewer, long time homeschool educator, and the creator of The Bookish Society.

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