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The Woman Who Lost Her Soul Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119827
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2013: In this breathtakingly ambitious work, spanning the globe and many decades, Shacochis has crafted a (mostly) fictional backstory to 9/11, tracing the ancient hatreds that continue to infect history. At the story’s core is Jackie Smith (aka Renee Gardner, aka Dottie Chambers), posing as a photojournalist in late-1990s Haiti, a feral and dangerous place--where Jackie fits right in. Beautiful, heedless, and damaged, Jackie/Renee/Dottie is a man-eater: “Hers would be a slavish cult of eager youth and wicked men.” Among those who fall under her spell are the earnest humanitarian lawyer Tom Harrington and the malleable gung-ho Special Forces operative Eville Burnette, not to mention her Croatian-turned-America father, whose inappropriate attentions add a creepy touch. Lording above all is a group of golf buddies, shadowy puppet masters from the “acronymic spawn” of military and intelligence agencies, whom Shacochis hilarious calls “phallocrats”--“little guys with big d**ks, or at least big d**k syndrome.” From Haitian voodoo dances to World War II Croatian to the first inklings of a group of Arab extremists known as “The Base,” this is a spy thriller engorged into a brilliant reflection on “the cult of millennial revenge.” Inevitably, there will be Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad comparisons. I’d add two Davids to the mix: Lynch and Cronenberg. And though it’s a brick of a book, it rarely slows: transfixing and magical; sexy and lurid; propulsive and unpredictable and quite troubling. Some of the set pieces are unceasingly good, and every line is crafted with obsessive care--no small feat in a 700-page book. Awards judges? Take notice. --Neal Thompson

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In Shacochis's powerful novel of sex, lies, and American foreign policy, 1990s Haiti, Nazi-occupied Croatia, and Cold War–era Istanbul are shown as places where people are pulled into a vortex of personal and political destruction. After leaving Haiti's Truth Commission, lawyer Tom Harrington returns to Florida and family routine until a private investigator asks him to help a client accused of murdering his wife, Renee Gardner, whom Harrington knew in Haiti as Jackie Scott. Harrington once took Jackie to a voodoo priest so she could ask him to restore her soul, and in flashbacks we discover why. First, Shacochis shows Jackie's father, Stjepan, as an eight-year-old Croatian boy during the German occupation who witnesses his father's beheading and his mother's torture. Forty years later, a teenage Jackie, then called Dorothy Chambers, learns the meaning of secret service from her father, who's serving as an American diplomat in Turkey. A brutal American-style le Carré, Shacochis details how espionage not only reflects a nation's character but can also endanger its soul. Gritty characters find themselves in grueling situations against a moral and physical landscape depicted in rich language as war-torn, resilient, angry, evil, and hopeful. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman. (Sept.)

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Customer Reviews

I could not finish this book.
A very long book with no likable characters, The plot was difficult to follow and the narrative was excessively wordy and the violence gratuitous.
Linda Bohannon
In other words, this substantial, complex, brilliantly written novel is worth your time.
Thomas F. Dillingham

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Gman on August 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't know where to start. I was entranced from page one. This thing bombs and rockets along through eastern europe and haiti and the conclaves of the rich and elite to the poorest most gritty awful people and conditions and the next page shoots you right out into islands few have ever seen, and where the woman in question, I believe, has her soul painfully reinserted but that might just be me. I've been waiting for a book that wasn't just blah blah blah glib crap and, man, was I glad he wrote this. He took ten years to craft this mesmerizing magick, and the sentences are gorgeous--the story is fantastic, and the way he swings you along from page to page--well, what can I say. Wow seems poor in scale next to this monumental achievement. This book will win the big awards. I'm going to read it again. And again. Few authors have that power over me, few books call me back like this one. I stop reading sometimes and just shake my head, it's so f***ing good. Finally, a big book worth reading and savoring and going back over the language and word-art. I guess you might say, I'm sold on this writer, this book. I very much liked his other books, but I never saw this one coming. Pow.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
You don't need to know much about Haitian, Croatian or Turkish politics to fully appreciate The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, but it helps. It also helps to surrender to the journey - a journey that spans over 700 pages - because immediate answers will not be forthcoming.

This is a big book in every sense of the word: big in breadth, in ideas, in audacity. You will lose your heart to it and end up shaking your head in awe and admiration. And along the way, you will learn something about the shadowy world of politics and espionage, the hypocrisy of religion, and the lengths that the players go to keep their sense of identity - their very soul - from fragmenting.

So what IS it about? That's not an easy question to tackle. The eponymous woman of the title is Dottie Chambers, the hypnotic and damaged daughter of the elite spy Steven Chambers - surely one of the most screwed up characters in contemporary literature. As a young boy, Steven witnessed the atrocities of Tito's Muslim partisans against his own father, and he came to age with a zeal to right the wrongs...eventually pulling Dottie into his malignant orbit.

That is all I intend to say about the plot, which spans five decades, many countries, and a wide range of themes. The novel consists of five separate books, some short, some long, a catalog-of-sorts of 20th century atrocities and the loss of not only the individual soul, but our collective soul as well. Mr. Shacochis has choreographed a spellbinder, with hints (depending on where you are in the book) of David Mitchell, John Le Carre, Ernest Hemingway, and others...while keeping the narrative distinctly his.

The themes this author tackles go right to the heart of identity and destiny.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Thomas F. Dillingham VINE VOICE on September 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bob Shacochis is admired for his excellent collections of short stories, mostly about life in the Caribbean, an area of the world he knows well. For his massive new novel, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, he has taken us back to Haiti, but the more pertinent predecessor to this work is his firsthand reporting of the American occupation of Haiti during the 1990s, The Immaculate Invasion. That book, a scarifying account of the diplomatic, military and bureaucratic follies of that effort publicly described as intended to rescue the Haitian people from their political chaos, provides all the "background" one might want to clarify the action of the new novel. But rest assured, the novel can be read on its own, and the reader will probably then wish to read the nonfiction work afterward, just because Shacochis is such a good writer and the subject is important.

I was initially a bit dubious about this novel. After the first fifty pages, I wondered if it would turn out to be a romping action novel, with lots of exotic local color and very tough men exercising all their muscles and mechanical equipment to beat up on the bad guys--Rambo Meets Vodou, or some such thing. But I felt sure I could expect better, if only because of the presence of the epigraph at the beginning by Fernando Pessoa: "It is no secret that souls sometimes die in a person and are replaced by others." That plus an accompanying passage from Czeslaw Milosz, and another from Winston Churchill, seemed bona fide assurances that there would be depths, and there are. It's not that I always assume an epigraph is a guarantee, but it is a kind of promise, and that is fulfilled. As I should have expected from Shacochis.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Denis Vukosav TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"The Woman Who Lost Her Soul" by Bob Shacochis is a demanding book due to its length, many characters and interwoven plot, but certainly won't leave you indifferent.
The book is made of five parts that take place form the WW II on Balkans, Turkey during Cold War and Haiti while American peacekeeping mission was in progress.

It starts as a thriller murder mystery when a woman who had been on vacation together with her husband in 1998 is murdered on the Haiti's Route Nationale One road that is called "Highway to Hell" by Americans who are present on Haiti at the time. Soon we realize that it isn't just a murder but a start of complex story of American foreign policy that is lasting for a 50 years all around the world and leads to the 9/11 attacks.

The first part of book will introduce Tom Harrington, who is a journalist who became human rights lawyer trying to create a truth commission in the Haiti after American invasion in 1990s. He will encounter Jacqueline Scott, who is a novice photojournalist and due to its beauty book got its name.
He will fall in love with her, regardless that he is married but he would need to leave her.
When he would be back to Haiti to help in abovementioned murder he will realize that murdered woman is Jacqueline, under a different name, and also that obviously she worked undercover for the US government.

The author will next take us back to Croatia's final years of WW II, where we would be introduced to eight year boy whose father is brutally killed by partisans due to his cooperation with Nazis. Throughout the rest of the book a motive of boy's desire for revenge due to the loss of his father will be present.
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