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In the Kingdom of Men Paperback – February 12, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307474690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307474698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“With courage and zest, In the Kingdom of Men takes an intimate look at … the rarified and harshly beautiful world of eastern Saudi Arabia.” —San Francisco Chronicle 
 
 “A mesmerizing novel, set in the American heartland and Saudi Arabia—two locations that on the face of it couldn’t be more different. But from the point of view of a woman not allowed to be herself, the two places have startling similarities.” —Elizabeth Berg, author of Once Upon a Time, There Was You
  
“Kim Barnes has created a heroine for the ages in Gin McPhee.” —More
 
“Richly wrought. . . .  With a protagonist like this, Barnes could have set her novel in a single room, and we’d keep reading.” —The Boston Globe

“If you want to understand, right in your gut, the history of the American relationship with Saudi Arabia; if you want a magical, layered story of west-inside-east, culture layered over culture, and the slow—still ongoing—revolution of gender and race oppression, In the Kingdom of Men is your book. It’s Mad Men meets The Sheltering Sky, a Revolutionary Road for the oil-addicted. It’s also an utter pleasure to read.” —Anthony Doerr, author of Memory Wall

“Unfurled like a rich carpet, rolling out over a vast space before it gently settles and fills every corner. Barnes . . . gets more motion and feeling into a deceptively plain paragraph than many novelists can cram into a chapter. . . . The women who populate this novel are all heroic in their various ways, a wonderful juxtaposition alongside this man’s world build by oil money.” —The Seattle Times

“Something more than a novel about an [Oklahoman] who causes trouble in a foreign land. It’s that, and a feminist bildungsroman.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A great windswept adventure full of tension and suspense, In the Kingdom of Men is moving in the truest sense, sweeping the reader along with its gorgeous prose, a rich setting, and most of all, Gin McPhee, one of those rare characters who sits up on page one, grabs you and pulls you into her world.” —Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins


“A swashbuckling, thrilling ride of a book, In the Kingdom of Men transports readers to the sands of Arabia and the recesses of the human heart. Ginny McPhee is a heroine unlike any other, negotiating love, politics, the intricacies of marriage, and the journey to selfhood. A vivid and compelling tale.” —Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise

“Seldom has a book drawn me into its clutches as quickly as this one did. By the second sentence I was hooked on the first person account of Virginia Mae Mitchell. . . . With a compelling narrative that never flags, we are quickly transported from the dusty, red clay plains to the seemingly infinite desert sandscapes of Saudi Arabia.” —Jay Trachtenberg, The Austin Chronicle

“A culturally complex story about American venality and greed.” —The Washington Post
“An ambitious amalgam of sexism, racism, corporate colonialism, culture clash, class issues, religion, love and marriage, grief and loss.” —The Oregonian

“[Barnes] does an excellent job of conjuring the sights, smells and heat of Saudi Arabia. She also has an astute understanding of the subtle, persistent pull of homesickness that lurks beneath the glamour of expatriate life.” —Houston Chronicle

“I was transfixed by Kim Barnes’s thoughtful, elegant account of a young American woman's experience of 1960's Saudi Arabia. It describes a piece of the world that seems utterly fresh, never-written-about, and In the Kingdom of Men brings it to vivid life. This is a historical novel which is not only romantic and dramatic and compelling, but has particular, important relevance to our current age.” —Dan Chaon, author of Stay Awake and Await Your Reply

“Addictive . . . Barnes’s sweeping drama takes the reader on a captivating journey.” —Real Simple

“This novel has it all: an intriguing story that thunders to a thrilling climax, characters who grab our hearts, gorgeous prose and a setting that stuns the reader at every turn. Arabia!” —Ellen Sussman, author of French Lessons

“An immersive and bracing exploration of one woman’s search for freedom amid repression. . . . Gin is a delightful heroine whose tenacity animates those around her, a quality that lays the groundwork for an extraordinary adventure and unsettling conclusion.”  —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


About the Author

Kim Barnes is the author of two memoirs and two previous novels, including A Country Called Home, which received the 2009 PEN Center USA Literary Award in fiction and was named a best book of 2008 by The Washington Post, the Kansas City Star, and The Oregonian. She is the recipient of the PEN/Jerard Fund Award for an emerging woman writer of nonfiction, and her first memoir, In the Wilderness, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work has appeared in a number of publications and anthologies, including The New York Times; MORE magazine; The Oprah Magazine; Good Housekeeping; Fourth Genre; The Georgia Review; Shenandoah; and the Pushcart Prize anthology. Barnes is a professor of writing at the University of Idaho and lives with her husband, the poet Robert Wrigley, on Moscow Mountain.

Customer Reviews

I thought the characters were well done.
Damaskcat
The ending left me with too many questions and the main character seemed very much out of character during that part.
Kathi Reddan
The end was anti-climactic, never really developed and very disappointing.
Cynthia F. Powell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By S. Schell VINE VOICE on July 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
*A Brief Note to Readers: If you find this review "not helpful", please take a moment to tell me why in the comment section. Thank you.*

Virginia "Gin" Mitchell is a dreamer but life on a rural Oklahoma farm in 1968 is no fairy tale world, especially with a fundamentalist grandfather who finds infraction of religious law at every turn. When she ends up pregnant by local boy Mason McPhee, Gin is shunned and finds herself no better off in her new life with her new husband in Houston, TX. Impoverished and desperate to improve their situation, Mason takes a job overseas with an oil company, one located in the arid and isolated deserts of Saudi Arabia. It is here among haboobs and locust plagues that Gin comes of age and learns that the freedom and adventure she craves will continue to elude her and, once obtained, come at great price.

Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Kim Barnes describes "In The Kingdom of Men" as "part cautionary tale, part adventure story". The novel feels like a veiled treatise on feminism and religion. The author has many feelings about the latter - she ran away from home and a devout Pentecostal fundamentalist father twice in her youth. What she hasn't lived is the oil compound life and her information is culled from her aunt and uncle, employed and housed by Aramco in the 1960's. I found her interview on The Diane Rehm Show and her musings on her book and her own life more interesting than the book itself.

Her story arc is limp. The vast majority of the book is spent developing Gin and her relationships with the other characters.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. McNamara on July 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
n 1967 Saudi Arabia is a company town. And the company is Aramco, the Arabian American Oil Company. The Saudi government had yet to nationalize Aramco, and the country was run by Aramco executives along with the Saudi royal family.

A young American couple, Gin and Mason McPhee, come to Saudi Arabia to live. Mason has accepted a job with Aramco. They are given a luxurious house to live in, and provided with a gardener and houseboy to help them. While Mason works on a drilling platform for two weeks at a time, Gin is left to her own devices. She is young, impulsive, bored and lonely.

Gin bristles at the strictures of living in an Aramco compound in the middle of the desert. She doesn't understand why she can't just do what she wants-ride horses, explore the desert, even go anywhere off the compound alone. Gin and Mason are committed to the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They are distressed at the way Aramco treats the Bedouins who work for the company.

Their youth and ideals are not a good match for Aramco. Soon, Gin and Mason discover that the previous residents of their house were involved in some kind of scam that resulted in poor equipment maintenance and the resulting deaths of a number of workers. Gin and Mason each want to bring this fraud to the attention of higher-ups. But communication has broken down between them, and they work at cross purposes. Meanwhile, Gin has become a writer and photographer for the company newsletter, and is discouraged and angry when the editor returns her photos as being unsuitable. She does not heed his warnings and continues to take forbidden photos.

This is a great book with great characters. In the history of Aramco we can see the seeds of today's uneasy alliance between America and Saudi Arabia, as well as the politicization of the oil business. In the Kingdom of Men would make a great movie. I hope someone out in Hollywoodland pays attention.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Daune Robinson on July 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I rarely find a book so awful that I can't recommend it at all - not even as a free read from the library, but this book is that bad. I wanted to like it because I grew up in the Aramco community and it's rare to find a book that can allow me to travel "home" . The book did take me back, but that is where the good ended. This book is a mixture of feminism, arrogance, corporate bashing, stereotyping, and naive glorification of other cultures and victimhood - none of it done well.

Gin, the major female character in the book, is an unpleasant, whining, self-centered, unlikeable woman who alternates between simply doing what she is told, and doing everything that she is told to not do. She lies without thinking, then pouts and throws tantrums when the results don't work out for her. She is unhappy as a housewife and "longs" to be free of the restrictions placed on her by the Company and the men in the community. Unfortunately instead of developing an interesting internal struggle against the backdrop of the era, the theocracy that is Saudi Arabia, or being raised in poverty and fundamentalist religiosity the author stereotypes everyone around Gin and gives us a shallow, self-centered character who never relates in any meaningful way to the life she leads. It's very hard to care about Gin, or her life, which is strike one against this book.

Strike two against the book is the absurdity of the "mystery". Gin and Mason (the husband) stumble on what is essentially a theft involving several characters you meet in the book. The author blows this up into what is supposed to be corporate and political intrigue, and an extreme cover-up. The problem is that it makes no sense.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Kim Barnes is the author of In the Kingdom of Men, the story of a young American couple living in 1960s Saudi Arabia, as well as two memoirs and two previous novels, including A Country Called Home, which received the 2009 PEN Center USA Literary Award in Fiction and was named a best book of 2008 by The Washington Post, Kansas City Star, and The Oregonian (Northwest). She is a recipient of the PEN/Jerard Fund Award for an emerging woman writer of nonfiction, and her first memoir, In the Wilderness, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and received a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. Her work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including the New York Times, MORE Magazine, WSJ online, O Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Fourth Genre, The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. She is a professor of writing at the University of Idaho.


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