An impassioned indictment of government oppression, this novel follows the fortunes of Thesar Lumi, a laborer living under communist rule in Soviet-controlled Albania. At the center of the story is a crucial decision Lumi makes in the last days of the Second World War: he has a chance to leave Albania on a refugee ship headed to Italy, but at the last moment he disembarks and returns home to his village. As it happens, he has chosen a grim existence. To survive, he is forced to work in a concrete factory, from which he watches friends and family members run afoul of repressive new laws. But even as the book skillfully depicts the slow suffocation of a whole society, it also celebrates the moments of love and hope that sustain the people—and holds out the possibility that Lumi may have been right to remain at home.
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