Caught in a world of drugs, prostitution and human trafficking, Nikita Tarasov plans her escape.
From author Graham Whittaker, The Girl From Kosovo is a compelling novel of love and intrigue, where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. This new book is inspired by real events, such as the Kosovo War in the late 1990s; real places such as the little East Yorkshire town of Withernsea, England, and its famous Lighthouse; and real people, such as the Lunns family who owned and operated The Holderness Gazette, formerly Withernsea Gazette. Whittaker takes all these elements and masterfully weaves them together into a thrilling fiction about damaged souls touching and healing each other.
When Nikita Tarasov is buried alive and critically wounded during the war in Kosovo, a voice, named Andy, tells her amazing stories about a little boy, and a lighthouse, keeping her calm. Shortly after being rescued by a psychopathic Serbian Nationalist, Max Lomax, Nikita becomes the darling of the world’s press. Now, trapped in a world of drugs, human trafficking and prostitution, Nikita promises to escape her “Guardian” and find the mysterious Andy.
Nikita has been told that Andy never existed, but his stories, the image of a Lighthouse, and a lonely little boy, haunt Nikita. Determined to prove Andy is real, Nikita discovers a town where “Andy” may have lived. One boy believes her and as the quest for the real Andy touches lives, everything changes. The rough-edged Yorkshire boy Robbie falls in love with the damaged little girl. Throughout, the Lighthouse that once shed its gentle beam across the town, and into a frightened little boy’s bedroom, guides Nikita to her destiny.
Powerfully poignant and exceptionally evocative, The Girl From Kosovo is a tale that tackles big themes with the most engaging narrative. This is a story readers will remember long after its final pages have been turned.
Professional Review from AuthorsDen.com:
The Girl From Kosovo: The tale begins 25 December 1960 in East Yorkshire, Andy had only a mile before he reached home. The slow turn of light from the lighthouse shone upon snow laying thick on the ground.
From that beginning the narrative moves to 24 March 1999 in a cold black world where seven year old Nikita Kosovo again experienced the horror of a recurring nightmare filled with fear and shelling and silence and death and loss. And suddenly in the midst of the pain, and fear and despair, a quiet voice comes to encourage the frightened child that help will come. The voice tells Nikita that his name is Andy. Andy tells the little girl about his childhood and pedaling his bicycle home in the snow, and lighthouse and the town in which he lived as she drifts in and out of consciousness.
Nikita ponders when she awakens in the hospital and is told that she was alone in the collapsed building, no one else was there.
And the narrative goes again to 1960 and ten year old Andy, whose father when home on leave, bullied his wife and child.
The tale continues with 17 year old Robbie, the now 15 year old Nikki and East Yorkshire again and a girl who is now the darling rescued from the horror of a collapsed building. The little girl who lost her mother to the war has been taken in by a benefactor, Max Lomax who is becoming rich, in part, as a result of the popularity of the brave little girl rescued from the rubble. In 2008 Max deeply involved in so called ‘rescue’ of many who found their lives all but destroyed by the war in Kosovo is growing rich through his so called ‘rescue’.
Nikki begins a diary filled not with girlish nattering, but the sad narrative of a young woman who realizes that the supposed benefactor is in fact a devious individual who has stripped herself of any semblance of childhood and has brought her into the grip of inhumanity. On the surface her life seems ideal, she is the darling rescued from the horror of Kosovo. Reality is she is once again searching for Andy, and hope and someone to care for her.
Beginning in 1960 and moving forward and back from the little boy pedaling home in the snow to the war in Kosovo and a grown man trying to allay the fears of a wounded child and her life after being ‘rescued’ by a sadistic Serbian, this riveting narrative carries the reader along on a eye opening glimpse into existence rarely seen by others.
Kosovo, 24 March 1999
In the deep dark, Nikita listened to Andy’s armchair-calm storytelling. His voice created a light behind her eyes to cast aside the curtain of dark—and in the light, images. He talked about a lighthouse; a lone stone sentinel pricking holes in the night, comforting a little boy; a dogged little boy, who, valiant against all disaster, perched on a blue-and-yellow bicycle, heading down into the wind.
She felt the chill of a bitter frost and saw the little boy’s tears as his frozen hands thawed in front of a warm fire.
All the time, whilst Andy’s gentle warm brown voice filled her head, she was no longer afraid. There was no dark and the hurting not so bad.
But in the deep dark, when his voice that blazed light into the void paused, she was hurled back into jagged reality, where the crushing weight on her chest and legs became an agony, and terror rushed in once more to fill the space.
Something terrible pressed against her kidneys. Something like a spike, a sword, or a long nail. If she relaxed and let her body sink down a little more, the thing would pierce her through. So she fought to stay rigid, not to yield to it, until her muscles fluttered and cramped. She screamed. ‘Andy! It hurts! It hurts!’
Panic blossomed alongside increasing agony, knowing she was screaming. Her head was full of screaming but out of control. But this time, she screamed not for Mama. Mama was gone. Like everyone. The world. The universe. Gone. ‘Andy!’ she screamed. There came no reply. The void filled again with the deep dark
‘Are you there?’ Now empty of hope, she no longer screamed but only mouthed the quiet words to question her own dream.
Nothing came back into the silence. Not even the echo of her tiny voice. The dirt and rubble sucked up her words. Sucked up and diminished. Like blotting paper.
Nikita silently began to cry. At least, her tears felt hot and real in this surreal blackness. This was not a nightmare. Not a nightmare. It was as real as dying, as real as never being, and as real as the corruption of dogs with bloody muzzles and laughing men with Satan in their souls.
Even if she screamed, she would not be able to wake because she was already awake. ‘Andy?’ Despair was the only voice she heard. The voice of her own despair. She had heard a little boy’s words inside her head that was all, as if the little boy, dead and lost on his way to heaven, had whispered in her ear, ‘Fear kills’.
‘Fear kills,’ she repeated.
‘That’s right, Nikita. Fear kills. You must remember that.’
‘Andy?’ She had not realised that she had repeated the little boy’s words aloud.
There was no irony in Andy’s laugh; the laugh was neither raucous nor a chuckle. But neither did it sound out of place here.
He laughed like her brother used to laugh at his baby sister before lifting her into the air or twirling around holding one arm and one leg whilst she spread out the other arm and leg into an ‘air plane’.
Andy had a nice laugh. ‘Now who else would be down here with you?’ he asked in a playful tone.
‘I got frightened again,’ she said. ‘Everything seems not real. I thought maybe I made you up.’ Andy made that not-raucous-not-chuckle sound again. ‘Well, maybe you did, Nikki. But that’s one heck of an imagination for one little girl. Don’t you think?’
‘Do you think they will come?’ Nikki’s own voice quivered and saturated in despair. ‘Sometimes they don’t come. They just walk around and over the ruins and shout. And sometimes they just take things and go away. Do you think they will come?’
Andy was silent for a moment. In the absence of his voice to fill the void, the deep-dark nothingness flowed in again—a big ocean wave with the power to crash and bludgeon.
Then Andy’s voice pushed back the wave as easily as a smile. ‘They will come, Nikki. If you have faith, they will come. I promise.’
Nikki remembered promises. Promises meant nothing to people now. Promise was a word uttered as shamefully as love from a man to a pretty girl. When they promised to stop the shooting, they never did. More soldiers came to stop the shooting only by shooting. They gave excuses about how they had not been the ones to break their promises first. So even though they promised, they had only responded. They were keepers of the peace, but there was no peace, so they still broke them all the same. All the time.
‘Are you a soldier?’ she asked. ‘Soldiers cannot make promises. They have orders, so they cannot make promises. How can you promise? Nobody will come. Nobody ever comes any more. Kosovo has nobody left to come. Everybody is gone. Everybody is buried like us, and nobody to come any more.’
‘Yes, Nikita. I am a soldier. An English soldier. I can promise you they will come. Talk to me, Nikita. I am like you, in a pickle here. We must talk. Will you talk with me, Nikita? Listen, Nikita. Listen to my voice. I am above you. Near the top. Above you, near the surface. I am not one of the bad soldiers. I was sent to help, to save people. Listen to me, Nikita. Are you listening? Talk. Keep talking, Nikita. Then I can help you.’
Nikita wanted to sleep now. To go away from the pain and the deep dark. Andy’s voice was slipping away. Just a dream. Only a dream before dying. She knew about dying. It was not hard to die now. Only a shame. Before dying, she wanted to do something. To be something. Anything. A lady who baked cakes in a shop. A lady who could hug children or sing a lullaby.
‘Nikita! Talk! Talk. I need you to talk!’ And then the voice was loud again. So loud and strong. ‘I swear to you, Nikita. I will guide them to you with my life, I swear. Do you know about green frogs, Nikita? In the hot tropics of Australia, there are pretty green frogs. They are very pretty, Nikita, and very wise. Do you know that when a Mr Green Frog wants to impress a Miss Green Frog, he puffs up his chest and sits by the drainpipes or even under the toilet bowl, and he makes his croaking call to her to bring her to him? Do you know why he does that, Nikita? He does that so that Miss Green Frog thinks he is a big, powerful, strong frog, and the sound he makes is loud through the pipes. Can you hear me very loudly, Nikita? Like the Mr Green Frog? I can make my voice loud through this pipe close by. Like Mr Green Frog.’
‘Talk! Don’t die. Learn to bake cakes. Cuddle a fresh new baby! I can! I can!’
‘I can hear you very loudly, Mr Andy. Yes, loudly like the green frog. Are you hurt very badly? I think for me, it is very bad.’
‘Yes, Nikita, a little bad for me, but let us talk a little. I will send them to you, I promise you, little one. There are some men looking for me, and they will look very hard. It is what my job is. It is what I was born to be. Did you know that we are all born to do something? I was born to be here. With you. To make a promise to you. Now I am here, just for you. I will always be Andy and always here for you. When they come to dig after the bad soldiers have gone, I will send them to you. Do you understand a promise?’
Nikita groaned, the spike sinking into flesh now. She took a breath and stiffened until her rigid little body could almost bear no more. ‘Is it a mama promise? A real promise? Or a soldier promise?’
‘Uh…’ Even through the gentle authority of his deep brown voice, Nikita knew that Andy was hurt. Very hurt, and she had to talk to him. To keep away his deep dark too. That too was what she was born to be.
Then he spoke again. Not in a loud green-frog voice but a tired whisper.
‘It is both, Nikita. It is a mama promise and a soldier’s promise. We must wait a little while for the people who dig to come soon. Can you endure, Nikki? If you can endure, I promise you with my life, with my being, you will be safe. Perhaps… perhaps we can endure together. We will talk together in this pickle. I have so many stories. I can teach you to endure. Will you listen, Nikki? Will you tell me stories too so that we can both endure?’
‘I can, Mr Andy. I can endure. I know I can.’
‘Then you will certainly be rewarded, Nikki. I promise you on my life.’
For thirty hours, Nikki told her story, and Andy told his story until the Kalashnikovs rattled and silence fell like a blanket of terror.
‘Remember Nikki’, Andy had said, ‘fear kills. It is only darkness. Be calm.’ Nikki stayed calm even as the spike pierced deep inside her broken body.
Professional Reviews THE GIRL FROM KOSOVO
This is not a story through which a reader can skip around! Very complex plot. Even so, this is a splendiferous (smile) novel and it is written by an artist and a master of convolution, imagery, and dialogue. This is a good book, a professionally-written book, and a potential classic. For now, I have only read 10 chapters, but I want to read the whole thing and will so so once it's published.
I am a fan of stories that jump around in time with flashbacks and shifting from present to past and vice-versa. For me, it heightens the suspense of the story and always provides an "ah ha" experience when the puzzle pieces come together. This is the style of this author's book.
The story stars off in 1960, East Yonkers, with Andy on his bicycle on a cold Christmas day. Although this chapter is a bit too long, the reader is captured by the imagery and by Andy. Chapter two is an excellent length for readability and sustained interest. This chapter certainly engages the reader's emotions and this reader found herself very distressed by 7-yr-old Nikita's situation and the pain she was experiencing. Chapter three offers no relief in the despair elicited by this story as Andy lives at home with a very abusive father while his older brother and sometimes protector has run away from home. The back-and-forth between Andy, the gentle angel-of-a-boy, and Nikita, in pain and buried alive continues through the next chapter fully tugging at the reader's heart and concern for this small boy and tragic girl. A pleasant relief from the horrible tragedy is offered in chapter 5 when we find Niki alive at age 15 with a loving friend, Robbie - a brilliant boy with plans to become a journalist. Still Niki obviously carries scars with her from her childhood especially since adults have repeatedly told her that there was no Andy.
I did continue to read this manuscript because I simply couldn't put it down until Jilly, Grace, Marijya became a part of the story. At two a.m. in this morning's wee hours, however, I simply could read no further and stopped - but it was not because I wanted to stop - the puzzle pieces have not yet come together. No flattery intended, this is a classic.
THE GIRL FROM KOSOVO
So, I am LOVING this! I read the first two chapters over coffee this morning, and it is fantastic! I will be reading more today when I have the time. Your descriptions and livid and beautiful. I love how Andy tells himself to remain strong and now let the "baddies" get to him. It makes me wonder if these things are real, or if he just have a wild imagination and thinks of them as real though he may or may not know they are real. I t leaves me wondering, which is good.
I also feel sorry for Nikita, I hope she'll be okay, and it sounds like Andy will help her out. Once again, in chapter two you have such wonderful phrases and imagery, it makes my mind whirl with wonder. :) I can't wait to read more.
THE GIRL FROM KOSOVO
Really powerful writing. I think the description of the little boy cycling, and his mantra to keep fear at bay when the landing monster is about, is brilliant psychology. Very vivid images and background. Nikita's story is very tense and the mystery of how Andy was involved is intriguing. Courage is an important thing!
Very impressive. It's topical and vividly written . RIKASWORLD