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Acts of Faith Paperback – May 9, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Caputo's ambitious adventure novel, set against a backdrop of the Sudanese wars, makes for a dense, riveting update on Graham Greene's The Quiet American. The American in this case is Douglas Braithwaite, a "mercenary with a conscience" who founds Knight Air, a charter airline that conveys relief supplies from NGOs to war-torn southern Sudan. Braithwaite launches his service by flying aid to the Nuba, a region in the northern Sudanese sphere of influence that is a no-go zone for U.N.-sponsored airlines. He hires Fitzhugh Martin, a former soccer star and mixed-race Kenyan from the Seychelles Islands, as his operations manager, and soon teams up with Texan bush pilot Wes Dare as well as a shady Somali financier. From Fitzhugh's perspective, we see corruption ensue from Douglas's decision to expand his air service—crushing his competitor, Tara Whitcomb, in the process—and to smuggle arms to Michael Goraende, the Nuban militia head. Douglas's support for the Nuban commander also brings Quinette Hardin, a Christian aid worker from Iowa who marries Goreande, into Knight Air's orbit. Caputo presents a sharply observed, sweeping portrait, capturing the incestuous world of the aid groups, Sudan's multiethnic mix and the decayed milieu of Kenyan society. Though this long atmospheric novel offers a very slow build and doesn't always avoid formula, the understated climax that leads to Knight Air's demise is powerful in its impact.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Nothing is omitted in this ambitious novel depicting the turbulent lives of several aid workers at the height of the Sudanese civil war. Caputo, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of a Vietnam memoir, includes more characters, plot lines, and big ideas than a single mind can track, but he writes so authoritatively that it doesn't matter. In the course of nearly seven hundred pages, he encompasses military offensives, the slave trade, arms-running operations, passionate romances, religious conversions, childhood memories, and rampant corruption, in a portrait of a place where "God and the Devil are one and the same." Caputo lays the groundwork of the novel carefully, introducing his disparate cast of characters; then, as the various plot lines come together, the book picks up speed. Caputo may have set out to write an epic parable about the dangers of uncritical belief, but he ended up with, quite simply, a great story.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725975
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Novelist and journalist Philip Caputo (1941 -- ) was born in Chicago and educated at Purdue and Loyola Universities. After graduating in 1964, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years, including a 16-month tour of duty in Vietnam. He has written 15 books, including two memoirs, five books of general nonfiction, and eight novels.

Caputo recently completed the travel/adventure book THE LONGEST ROAD: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean. It describes an epic road trip from the southernmost point in the U.S., Key West, Florida, to the northernmost that can be reached by road, Deadhorse, Alaska, on the Arctic Ocean. The journey took 4 months and covered 17,000 miles. Though it bears Caputo's unique stamp, the narrative fuses elements of John Steinbeck, Jack Keruoac, William Least Moon, and Charles Kuralt. Caputo interviewed more than 80 Americans from all walks of life to get a picture of what their lives and the life of the nation are like in the 21st century. Henry Holt will publish "The Longest Road" in Summer 2013.

Caputo's first book, the acclaimed memoir of Vietnam, A Rumor of War, has been published in 15 languages, has sold over 1.5 million copies since its publication in 1977, and is widely regarded as a classic in the literature of war. His 2005 novel "Acts of Faith," a story about war, love, and the betrayal of ideals set in war-torn Sudan is considered his masterpiece in fiction, and has sold 102,000 copies to date, His most recent novel, Crossers, set against a backdrop of drug and illegal-immigrant smuggling on the Mexican border, was published in hardcover in 2009 by Alfred A. Knopf and in paperback by Vintage in 2010.

In addition to books, Caputo has published dozens of major magazine articles, reviews, and op-ed pieces in publications ranging from the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Post to Esquire, National Geographic, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. Topics included profiles of novelist William Styron and actor Robert Redford, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the turmoil on the Mexican border.

Caputo's professional writing career began in 1968, when he joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune, serving as a general assignment and team investigative reporter until 1972. For the next five years, he was a foreign correspondent for that newspaper, stationed in Rome, Beirut, Saigon, and Moscow. In 1977, he left the paper to devote himself to writing books and magazine articles.

Caputo has won 10 journalistic and literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 (shared for team investigative reporting on vote fraud in Chicago), the Overseas Press Club Award in 1973, the Sidney Hillman Foundation award in 1977 (for A Rumor of War), the Connecticut Book Award in 2006, and the Literary Lights Award in 2007. His first novel, Horn of Africa, was a National Book Award finalist in 1980, and his 2007 essay on illegal immigration won the Blackford Prize for nonfiction from the University of Virginia.

He and his wife, Leslie Ware, an editor for Consumer Reports magazine, divide their time between Connecticut and Arizona. Caputo has two sons from a previous marriage, Geoffrey, a jazz composer and music teacher, and Marc, a political reporter for the Miami Herald.

Recently (Jan., 2013), his 2009 novel, Crossers, has been optioned for a feature film or TV apaptation by American Enterainment Investors, Inc., one of the leading financial advisors to the independent film industry. AEI's clients include such prominent production companies as Alcon Entertainment, River Road Entertainment, and Exclusive Media Group. AEI also advised Goldman Sachs and Assured Guarantee on restructuring The Weinstein Company in 2010."

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on May 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Setting this almost 700-page novel in Sudan and neighboring Kenya, Philip Caputo details the massive aid efforts of non-government organizations (NGOs) from around the world to bring aid into an area so dangerous that the UN will not enter. Using bush pilots and small airlines from Kenya, the NGOs fly into southern Sudan and land on hidden landing strips. The Muslim government of Sudan, located to the north in Khartoum, has long been at war with the oil-rich, largely Christian south, and atrocities, thoroughly described here, occur on a regular basis--the abduction of children for children's armies, the rape and enslavement of women, the maiming and mutilation of the healthy, the cutting off of food and water, and the theft of crucial medical supplies.

Caputo's large cast of characters consists of relief workers in Nuba, an oil-rich area in Sudan--Christian evangelists who bring aid and wish to convert the inhabitants; the International People's Aid group, a humanitarian group from Canada, run by a former Catholic priest; German Emergency Doctors, which operates a local hospital; and the mercenary pilots and owners of small airlines which service the area--along with members of the SPLA; a local Arab warlord allied with the Khartoum government; and members of the international press, most notably CNN.

The novel has a three-fold, rather than single focus--the very real atrocities of war and the real corruption of the Sudanese and Kenyan governments; the real, marginal lives, and real tribal and religious conflicts of the Sudanese people; and the fictional lives, backgrounds, and relationships of the characters. Well over two hundred pages are devoted to the backgrounds of fictional characters, including, sometimes, even the backgrounds of the characters' parents.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on May 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The best of Philip Caputo's writings concern the chaos and madness of war. His previous books were born out of his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran (see "A Rumor Of War" - 1977 and "Indian Country" - 1987). This time he writes about a war different from his own with masterful results.

He places his American characters in the ugly civil war that turn into genocide in the Sudan. As in Vietnam, his Americans believe that they have the answers and know what is best for the local Sudanese. They don't, and from that premise their growing involvement will bring tragedy by the close of the novel.

His storytelling of American do-gooders in way over their heads approaches epic proportions. It has riveting characters whom the reader will care about their respective fates. This is a long tale at nearly 700 pages -- it is double the length of his other books. "Acts of Faith" will hold your interest and haunt you long after you have set it down for the last time.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mary Reinert on August 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I found this book totally fascinating. I have no background in the culture, environment, or political situation of the Sudan; yet, I feel I have in some sense been there. Caputo provides a multi-layered picture of the people and places of this war-torn country. My mind's eye could easily envision the land and people; I could almost taste and smell the dust and sweat and had clear mental images of the major characters. The political situation is nothing short of a mess: "In Sudan the choice is never between the right thing and the wrong thing but between what is necessary and what isn't"

I found the characters, however, to be closer to symbols for the many factions working in Africa than real people. The dialogue was particularly distracting in places; it just didn't ring true. Nevertheless, these characters well depicted the forces at work -- the American do-gooder, the war lord, the cynic, the evangelist, the rebel leader, the old-rich, the new-rich, and the victim.

One review suggested that Caputo could better tell the story as non-fiction. He is certainly knowledgeable, and after doing a bit of research, the situation in the Sudan seems accurately presented. His strength is not in writing dialogue that is true; however, I would never have read this book if it wasn't presented as a novel. The relationships developed by the characters keep a reader's interest while providing a sound picture of the Sudan.

I loved the title of the book and if there is one thing I will definitely take from the book, it is the illustration of the conviction and fervor of those who were certain they were right -- so certain that the consequences never matter. At the same time, there are those who were never sure of the decisions they had to make, yet they acted. Both could be said to be carrying out acts of faith. Some because they were sure and others because there is simply nothing else to do.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I could say that this brand new book by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist is as fresh as today's headlines. But then again, the troubles in Sudan rarely make actual headlines. Rather, life there just goes on and on with seemingly unending problems. War is a fact of life and has been for centuries. The only difference now is that guns and bombs have replaced spears as weapons of choice.

Philip Caputo has taken on a big challenge with this novel. He had to create fictional non-Sudanese characters that would not only be real, but who could also be typical of the aid workers and opportunists attracted to the Sudan. He also tried to explain what it must be like to be Sudanese amidst the depths of upheaval and starvation that is a daily reality. His point of view, however, is through western eyes; the targeted audience are people like myself who are interested in expanding their understanding of peoples and places outside of their experience.

In order to achieve his goal, he created a handful of memorable characters. Quinette is an evangelical Christian from Iowa. She wants to do the right thing and help people. And she thinks that her church group's mission to purchase slaves in order to free them is good deed. She doesn't see how this action can perpetrate slave trade. However, as she continues to live in the Sudan, fall in love with a rebel leader, and get caught up in some controversial actions herself, she soon discovers the hard choices that have to be made.

There are two other American characters. One is Douglas Braithwaite, who starts up an small-plane airline to deliver aid to the Sudanese. Another is Wesley from Texas, one of his pilots. Another pilot is the attractive Canadian woman, Mary.
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