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Ghosts by Daylight

A war correspondent faces her most frightening challenge: ordinary domestic life.

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Ghosts by Daylight:
Love, War, and Redemption
By Janine Di Giovanni
Knopf
320 pp.

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In graduate school I had a friend whose father’s affluence protected her from the need to work. She enjoyed many summer vacations living abroad at various language schools.

The day finally came, however, when she faced the need to take on a 50-weeks-a-year, nine-to-five office job, one to which she commuted every day by train. I saw her after a few months of the new routine and she looked pale and shaken. “Ordinary people,” she whispered to me, gripping my arm as though she were confiding a hard-won and painful truth. “Ordinary people are heroes.”

I thought about my friend a number of times as I was reading Janine Di Giovanni’s memoir Ghosts By Daylight. Di Giovanni is a writer who spent many years as a war correspondent. Chaos, destruction, and peril became as normal to her as putting out the garbage on trash night is to the rest of us.

But when Di Giovanni finally decided to settle down and try a quiet domestic life as a mother and a wife – that was when the terror hit her.

It all began – fittingly, in the context of Di Giovanni’s life – in a war zone. She met her husband – Bruno, a French photographer – during the siege of Sarajevo. They flirted, fell in love, and then proceeded to drive each other crazy.

Over the course of “many years and a dozen wars” there are “endless phone calls, three miscarriages, much of what the French call malentendu, breakups, a breakdown, and a lot of alcohol” played out against the backdrop of “several fallen cities, countless rebel armies ... and frenzied meetings in Dakar and Tora Bora.”

Finally, however, these two moths who have by now spent several years circling multiple flames and each other, decide that what they really want is matrimony and a child.

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