Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shards” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.91  ·  Rating details ·  604 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Ismet Prcic’s brilliant, provocative, and propulsively energetic debut is about a young Bosnian, also named Ismet Prcic, who has fled his war-torn homeland and is now struggling to reconcile his past with his present life in California.

He is advised that in order to make peace with the corrosive guilt he harbors over leaving behind his family behind, he must “w
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Grove Press, Black Cat
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shards, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Shards

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  604 ratings  ·  122 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Shards
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

I enjoy gripping, personal stories about surviving hardship during war, the mundane details of life that go on despite such major upheaval, and fitting in and finding one’s identity in a foreign land.

This fragmented tale is told from multiple perspectives, that of Ismet while he is living in California, Ismet growing up in war-torn Bosnia, and another Bosnian teenager named Mustafa whose experiences fuse with Ismet’s so strongly that it is difficult to tell what is real
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Harrowing, hilarious, and wonderfully experimental, this is a terrific novel that captures the absurd brutalities of war. The prose is propulsive, the narrative is fractured, and every shard in this tale lands in the perfect spot. An impressive debut.
Lakis Fourouklas
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The author is a Bosnian-American. As we read in his website he used to be just a Bosnian, but then he learned some English and they gave him a piece of paper that said that he now was an American. However, if we are to judge from this novel that comes out next week in the US, we’d say that he truly and simply is a writer from the Balkans, since in this he talks about all the big issues facing the region: the civil wars and the refugees, immigration and religion, which tends to bring people apart ...more
Nov 07, 2011 added it
If we can say that a book’s symbols are symptoms of the ill it seeks cured, then puking in Ismet Prcic’s great first novel, Shards, literalizes the idea.

People are often puking in Shards, at the centers and peripheries of scenes. The book's central obsession isn't emetic, but it is there with enough persistence to suggest its importance, and no wonder. Puking declares a problem in how the inside relates to the outside, a trouble maintaining that boundary. This is an appropriate metaphor for the story of a ch
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My enjoyment of a book is influenced by my mood when I read it. I was definitely in a great place when I finished this one (a tropical island off the coast of Cambodia), but it would have been a 5 star favourite nonetheless.

Shards is an autobiographical story of a Bosnian refugee, and a tight and tense one at that. But it is more than this - it's speaks of how it feels to be a person touched by war, to be a family separated and broken by conflict, to have the guilt of a survivor, to struggle to
Olga Kowalska (WielkiBuk)
Mar 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
When it comes to war, to memories and the intensity of one's experience, "Shards" were simply amazing. The war is real, it stays forever and there's nowhere to hide from it. Ismet Prcic is a living proof of it.
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
“ 'Indian or Italian?'
“'Bosnian,' I told him.
“He rolled his eyes.
“'To eat! Do you want Indian food or Italian food for dinner?'
“I wanted to stomp on my own balls” (14).
“I'd rather throw myself eyeball first into a cactus” (21).
“...Dr. Cyrus he laughed, said that what I was experiencing was normal, that our brains are peculiar computers that constantly augment and even edit true events out of our memory when those events do not fit into the narrative that we te
Dec 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In beginning a description of Ismet Prcic's (pronounced Per-Sick) debut novel "Shards" I first must mention that novel is filled with stories, scenes, and characters that are truly enjoyable to read and range from heartbreaking to humorous. But what really makes the book stand apart was Prcic's fluid nature of storytelling that made the novel *novel* for me.

The bulk of the Story is set in 1990's Bosnia, where Prcic comes of age the war ravaged city of Tuzla. It is in Bosnia that his
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2012
I find myself wanting to write an amazing review to really do justice to this book - one of the best I've read in a long time - but there's no real way to do it justice.

I loved it. I'm not just saying that because I know the author. (If I hated it, I'd just *forget* to review it.)

This book was such a great story - the protagonist, who confusingly has the same name as the author - is putting together the pieces of his life. He grew up in Yugoslavia & lived through the
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
How does one define himself, and find an identity? These are questions that are hard enough in a "normal" life - ideas that one continues to explore through out his life. Now, imagine a life torn apart by war, foreign travel/escape, and the effort to reestablish yourself as a war-torn immigrant in your early twenties. This sets the stage for Shards, by Ismet Prcic. The main character, also Ismet Prcic, is faced with the choice of leaving his family in civil-war-torn Bosnia for a chance at a new ...more
Kris Fernandez-Everett
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
not a book to be read lightly... not only does the title give away much about the style of the book itself, but these are not themes that are at all light and frothy... no one is kidding when they say this book is as much about the absurdity of life -- and there are some passages which forced me into a double take because the mood, the atmosphere reminded me so much of camus and 'the stranger' -- as it is about the futility of war and the ridicule of the state (yes, there's some kafka mixed in h ...more
Sandra Delehanty
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There are very few books I cannot put down; this was one. Having experienced first-hand post traumatic symptoms relative to my own upbringing and then later, treated PTSD as a psychologist, I found Shards a moving and well written account of the experience. It is not enough to describe intrusive memories or emotional numbing in clinical terms for the average person to "get it". Being in it makes a person feel crazy. Reading Ismet's diary, Mustafa's story, and seeing through the young author's eyes wh ...more
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I can't think of another book that could be so aptly described as VISCERAL. People get eviscerated, viscera are exposed, and the writing itself originates in the visceral realm of the gut. That's why a book this sad can also be this funny. There's a thin veneer between what's inside and outside--the book is full of puke, piss, and blood--and what's inside of a person is always trying to get out, to paraphrase Denis Johnson. It's hard to keep up a facade when you're being pierced by shards, blown ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read the first 50 pages to speed date the book (and decide if I wanted to keep it or toss it) and I wanted to just burrow down and keep reading. The tone moves quickly between light-hearted and devastating, and the honesty of the narrator (is it the author? jury seems out) is sometimes funny, sometimes surprising. I hope he doesn't keep vomiting. I'll keep reading!
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
So well written. The war in Bosnia, the suffering of civilians, bombs day and night, trying to live a "normal" life, PTSD, survivor guilt, the discomfort of an immigrant, the discomfort of being young and in love and different, the alter ego of the man you should have been vs. the Izzy who tries to live a life in California. So many layers. So well written. Not perfect, but almost.
Josiah Miller
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a solid novel that gives good insight to a culture and history that is so near yet so far away. Good experimentation with narrative and a story with quite memorable scenes that require attention. There are definitely connections to be made that demand a re-read. I was not a big fan of the ending to the narrator but I was satisfied with the ending to the novel and it's form.
Thorn MotherIssues
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2012
Admittedly the topic hit close to home, but I don't remember another book that's given me goosebumps like this. A beautiful, painful look at living (?) through trauma.
Patrick Al-de Lange
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A wonderfully haunting story about the effects of war.

The novel follows the writer's life during the war in Bosnia, and his life in America where he tries to deal with the mental aftermath. It also follows the exploits of a man the writer glancingly met while have to sign up for the army, but from then on keeps propping up everywhere.

All these shards of stories create an imperfect raw and touching whole.
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
This book had some really good aspects. I really liked the rendering of the dissonance of clashing one's native culture with American culture. On the down side, I found it really confusing. It probably did not help that I was reading another book interspersed in the same weeks as this one. But, the upshot is, I had a hard time keeping track of what was happening to whom and when in historical time.
Kat Walter
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
A gut wrenching read. Searching for love and “normalcy “ in wartime Bosnia, escaping to freedom, and then suffering PTSD in California. With the surreal narration, the reader spirals into the madness of the main character/characters. Well done.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
For a 400-page book, this one was very inconclusive.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I admire the quality of writing but this book was hard to read and finish
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
I picked this book up out of a running interest in the subject matter - I've read quite a bit of Eastern European/Balkan writers and have spent quite a bit of time in the Balkans as well as studying Eastern European history. The premise of the novel is actually quite intriguing as well. A boy, with the same name as the author, escapes the war in Bosnia to come to America. We then read how he remembers his story (in the form of a memoir which he writes at the urging of his therapist), his diary t ...more
Bethany Miller
Nov 30, 2011 rated it liked it
I won a copy through Goodreads. Can't wait to start reading!

2.5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. Some of the writing was really good, but there were some sections where it got a bit convoluted and confusing. There are a lot of layers here. The book is a work of fiction; however, the author has the same name as the main character and he mentions Eric Carlson, the name of another character, in the acknowledgements. Within the book, Ismet is attempting to write a memoir, but
Catherine Woodman
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is about Bosnia, the Balkans, war, and trauma. It is more uplifting than it sounds, but not by a mile.
The novel is constructed in a series of fragments — shards — seemingly written by its main character, Ismet Prcic. Ismet grows up in Tuzla, Bosnia and manages to flee shortly before his induction into the “meat grinder” of the Bosnian infantry. He has survived and made his way to America, but is fractured by what he left behind. The novel comprises mostly segments from his memoir
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2014
My review was originally printed in the Yamhill Valley News-Register, McMinnville, Oregon.
Several descriptions of Ismet Prcic's "Shards" convinced me this was a novel I wouldn't want to read, just something I had to power through because it's this year's MacReads book.

It wasn't the subject matter -- the main character is a refugee of the 1990s Bosnian civil war -- that put me off. It was the way every report emphasized that the narrative skips back and forth in time and
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
I have no idea what happened - except it being a remarkable creative representation of trauma experiences - and that's okay; I liked it.
Azra Beganovic
Jan 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Having known many people who have lived through and experienced first hand the war in Bosnia, I feel as though this book was a good representation of the emotions and mood of the country people during that time. The constant fear of shellings, how neighbors are so quick to turn on one another because of religious beliefs, having to flee your homes, no electricity, no food, etc.
The book was a very easy read and hard to put down.
The reason I had to rate the book only 3 stars is because I was lef
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-love
Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): I seem to be on a genocide kick and have just read two amazing debut novels about two horrific conflicts, Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, set in Chechnya, and Ismet Prcic’s Shards, about Bosnia. While very different in style and tone, both novels are beautifully written and heartbreaking and somehow manage to depict the atrocities of war while conveying a sense of the absurdity that pervades these situations. (For example, in Marra’s book ...more
Sandra Jones
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it
“Shards” is one of several books being considered for our annual community-wide read event. The local high schools are included in the community read so I read “Shards” to make certain that it was both age-appropriate and interesting to teens. I think this book would be difficult for teens to read on many levels. The author has a gift for visual imagery which is used often to describe the horrors of the war in Bosnia. He presented gruesome images in my opinion, but perhaps not so much to the gam ...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Barba Ensopada de Sangue
  • Roses
  • Every Dead Thing (Charlie Parker, #1)
  • L'armata dei sonnambuli
  • The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
  • Love: Enter
  • Pangs of Love
  • American Studies
  • One of Ours
  • High Cotton
  • The Smell of Apples
  • So Big
  • The Year of the Frog
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey
  • His Family
  • Alice Adams
  • The House of Tomorrow
  • The Caine Mutiny
See similar books…
Ismet Prcic was born in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1977 and immigrated to America in 1996. He holds an MFA from the University of California, Irvine, and was the recipient of a 2010 NEA Award for fiction. He is also a 2011 Sundance Screenwriting Lab fellow. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife.
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“I have two minds about everything. Side A(merican) and side B(osnian). I wish I could find a way to drop off the face of the planet and leave my minds behind, get a new one. I dream of disappearing, cutting all ties, becoming a derelict, free to rave. I'd be calmer, happier. Or better, going back to Bosnia and telling no one, not even you. Just live there in the same city, grow a beard, and watch you to go to the market from the café across the street through a pair of sunglasses, never letting you know who I am. (p.43)” 4 likes
“If you were forged in the chaos, then there was no return. There was no escape. To you chaos was normalcy.” 3 likes
More quotes…