In a war-torn village in Eastern Europe, an American photographer captures a heart-stopping image: a young girl flying toward the lens, fleeing a fiery explosion that has engulfed her home and family. The image, instantly iconic, garners acclaim and prizes—and, in the United States, becomes a subject of obsession for one writer, the photographer’s best friend, who has suffered a devastating tragedy of her own.
In a bid to save the writer from a spiraling depression, her filmmaker husband enlists a group of friends—including a fearless bisexual poet, an ingenuous performance artist, and the writer’s playwright brother and painter ex-husband—to rescue the unknown girl and bring her to the United States. And yet, as their plot unfolds, everything we know comes into question: What does the writer really want? Who is controlling the action? And what will happen when these two worlds—East and West, real and virtual—collide?
A fierce, provocative, and deeply affecting novel exploring the often violent borders between war and sex, love and art, The Small Backs of Children is a major step forward from one of our most avidly watched writers.