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In 1996, 30 girls were abducted from a school in Uganda by members of the Lord's Resistance Army. Minot (Monkeys) takes this event as the starting point for her new novel, which then diverges into two narratives. The first follows the plight of the girls in captivity, focusing primarily on Esther, a wise and sensitive teenager. The second concerns Jane, an American writer and aspiring journalist who has come to Africa both to write a story about the abducted girls and to escape her own unhappy memories. Minot's style of rendering dialog without quotation marks gives the book a hazy, dreamlike quality, jumbling speech and description. Though the shifting narratives start out highlighting the stark contrasts between the two worlds, they eventually collide as violence enters the privileged white enclave. Near the end, there are times when the author seems to intentionally obscure which narrative is being recounted. VERDICT Though not easy to read, this is a deeply affecting title that manages to express weighty sentiments and horrific events with subtlety and poetry and also marks Minot's first major work since her 1997 novel Evening. [See Prepub Alert, 8/19/13.]-Lauren Gilbert, -Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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In 1996, 30 adolescent girls were taken from their school in Uganda and kept captive by the Lord's Resistance Army, a ragtag rebel movement led by the notorious warlord Joseph Kony. Minot (Evening) has taken this real-life event as the inspiration for her haunting new novel. In the voice of one of the survivors, fictionalized as Esther Akello, she relates the many horrors the girls endure, which include bearing their captors' children. With brilliantly effective understatement, the novel conveys Esther's complex psychological evolution-the emotional blankness that allows her to survive horrendous experiences, as well as the feelings of shame and guilt that threaten to overwhelm her at times. "We girls are like stone trees," Esther thinks. Chapters alternate between the perspectives of Esther and Jane Wood, a self-absorbed, 40-ish American journalist who travels to Africa to interview the abductees, but is also fleeing failed love affairs and a general sense of purposelessness in her life. This is a risky narrative ploy, as Jane's concerns seem trivial compared to those of the heroically resilient teenagers. It pays off at the end, though, when senseless tragedy shows Jane how quickly lives can be changed and invests her with a higher sense of purpose. 50,000-copy first printing announced. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Literary Agency. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Rebels in the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda burst into a convent dormitory, seize 139 schoolgirls, and march them off into the night. Sister Giulia follows and bravely argues for their release. She returns with 109. The outlaws keep 30, including smart, courageous Esther. Jane, an American writer and youngish widow, visits a friend in Kenya, sexy, generous Lana, and takes up with Harry, who is passionate about paragliding a poetic and apt embodiment of the illusion of freedom: though you feel exhilarated in flight, you are at the mercy of forces beyond your control. Jane is on her way to Uganda to speak with young women at a camp for traumatized children who escaped their enslavement to the psychotic rebels. Lana, Harry, a wealthy American businessman, and a French documentarian decide, cavalierly, to accompany her. In her first novel in more than a decade, spellbinding Minot (Rapture, 2002; Evening, 1998), a writer of exquisite perception and nuance, contrasts Esther's and Jane's radically different, yet profoundly transforming journeys in a perfectly choreographed, slow-motion, devastatingly revealing collision of realities. So sure yet light is Minot's touch in this master work, so piercing yet respectful her insights into suffering and strength, that she dramatizes horrific truths, obdurate mysteries, and painful recognition with both bone-deep understanding and breathtaking beauty.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist