Top positive review
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"You are there" description of horrendous real events plus 3-D characters
on October 9, 2013
Great journalists have an eye for the telling detail, and every page of this book crackles with them, you feel you are there. As an Iraqi-American, every episode of this book reminded me of something that I heard about during the first year of the occupation of Iraq. The background events here are described with the expected practiced eye yet they do not overwhelm either the story, the characters or the pacing. I started reading this book very slowly, trying to decipher whether this or that character was based on someone I know, savoring the details, often taken aback at what has happened to poor Baghdad and all the Iraqis living under enormous pressure. But by the time I reached the middle of the book, the pace became so rapid that I simply finished it in one sitting. The pace of the action is like that of a thriller, and the combination of vivid description of background events while the main characters are in the fore-ground is positively cinematic.
Here is another rare thing for this book; the empathy for the distress that ordinary Iraqis were going through is palpable on every page. It makes one grateful that an author is finally seeing the war from the point of view of the occupied while being an American. This authorial voice while describing the background events is also used as a subtle driving force for the moral education of Lee, the American trauma surgeon who has come to Baghdad on what appeared to be a foolhardy mission of a search and rescue. Like many of the greatest American novels, this one starts with the overly confident heroine who travels to search for something in another part of the world but ending by finding herself.