Wednesday 21 November 2018

Pieces of Me by Natalie Hart @NatalieGHart @Legend_Press #PiecesOfMe

Emma did not go to war looking for love, but Adam is unlike any other.
Under the secret shadow of trauma, Emma decides to leave Iraq and joins Adam to settle in Colorado. But isolation and fear find her, once again, when Adam is re-deployed. Torn between a deep fear for Adam’s safety and a desire to be back there herself, Emma copes by throwing herself into a new role mentoring an Iraqi refugee family.
But when Adam comes home, he brings the conflict back with him. Emma had considered the possibility that her husband might not come home from war. She had not considered that he might return a stranger.

Pieces of Me by Natalie Hart was published in paperback by Legend Press on 4 October 2018, my thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This is Emma and Adam's story; it's the story of how they met, and how they fell in love and how they came to be living in a small Colorado town. Emma is English and Adam is from the US, they met in Iraq; a place that become a character in its own right throughout this haunting story.

It is clear from Natalie Hart's evocative descriptions that she has spent time in Iraq. She paints a picture that is so very different to the scenes we see on the TV. Her lead character Emma has an enduring love for Iraq and this screams through in the writing.

Emma works in a civilian role in Iraq; processing applications for Iraqui people who want to move to the US. Adam is a medic in the army, when they meet for the first time, things don't go well. However, they find themselves drawn by events in Iraq. They marry and return to the US.

Emma struggles in Colorado. She doesn't really know who she is, or who she could be. Scarred by events in Iraq, yet desperately missing the place, and the friends she left behind she is soon drawn towards a refugee family in the town. As Emma and Adam prepare for his deployment back to Iraq, Emma becomes more and more distant from the people surrounding her.

The title, Pieces of Me, is so very clever. Emma collects pieces of broken pottery that she finds wherever she goes and it is from these that she tries to design a mosaic of her life. The 'pieces of me' can also depict the many strands to her life; wife, friend, mentor, grieving daughter, victim ... all of these pieces make up the whole of her being.

Emma's life, and that of her husband and their friends, shatters into even tinier pieces when Adam returns from Iraq. Gone is the loving husband who encouraged her and made her feel safe. Adam has been damaged whilst in Iraq and nothing that Emma can do or say seems to heal him.

Natalie Hart's writing is powerful and hard hitting. She doesn't gloss over any of the details of a war zone; this is not a sugary image of heroes and battles. This is terrifyingly real and so very topical and relevant to our times. She writes about an emotive subject with such precision. This story is thought provoking and unflinching.

This is a wonderfully written, incredibly moving and extremely powerful debut novel from an author who is a major talent.

I was so impressed by this novel and would recommend it highly. I'm excited to discover what Natalie Hart will produce next.

Natalie Hart is a writer and qualitative researcher, specialising in conflict and post-conflict environments. 
She has worked extensively across the Middle East and North Africa, including a year in Baghdad where Pieces of Me is set. Natalie has a BA in Combined Middle Eastern Studies (Arabic and Spanish) from the University of Cambridge and an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University.
Follow Natalie on Twitter @NatalieGHart

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