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Ricochet: Two women war reporters and a friendship under fire Kindle Edition
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With that opening line, Mary Jo McConahay drops us into 1989 El Salvador and, in a tense, urgent narrative, propels us through the war ravaged streets of a Central America in utter turmoil. Many dramas and many themes unfold throughout the story. There's the two American women journalists, one working in words, the other in film, mired in the external war while fighting a war of their own for respect and validation. There are the innocent victims, the common people whose impoverished lives are made even more insufferable by the ongoing horrors of warring factions that have no concern for residual casualties. Corruption, yes, and political intrigue, but told from the human perspective, that of the people suffering or the observers of those who have suffered.
McConahay does an excellent job conveying the journalist perspective. We're there with her in the field. We understand the pressure to get the story and somehow put human emotion on a back burner because the emotion must find it's proper target in the reader. She tells us of the stories that must remain untold because her male colleagues just don't get it:
"Our colleagues, mostly men, seemed to be less interested in what happened to women and children caught in the landscape we covered. I remember exceptions , but that was the rule."
Then she gives us one of her own passages to illustrate her point:
"In a mountain town occupied by child soldiers, a girl of 14 wearing oversized fatigues held an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, looking scared and defiant at once. Nancy’s angle caught the fragile white flower the girl wore in long, dark hair."
"Scared and defiant at once." The objective journalist must tell the story in the heart as well as the story in the street.
With all the admiration I have for this brave story, I frequently felt rushed and wished McConahay would spend a little more ink on transitions and reflections. She handled the latter very well when she permitted herself time:
"One of the babies whimpered inside its white swaddling, and the woman caressed it back into calm with the side of her chin. I could imagine them, four female souls huddling on a single hard bus seat for hours that morning, bumping their way to the capital. And only two on the return."
Perhaps with some distance and time to consider approach, this terse novella could be reissued as a book length memoir. We quickly come to care about Mary Jo and her photog friend Nancy. Even the most callus reader could tolerate a more prolonged view into the women's relationship.
This book perfectly captures the conundrum of Central America: the bravado, the hope, the tragedy, and the cynicism. There is something—probably that something that keeps the country's people putting one foot in front of the other—that offers a glimmer of hope for the future. It's that dying spark that says to us, "Perhaps if we endure a little longer, make a few more sacrifices, perhaps tomorrow we will prevail."
Ricochet, by Mary Jo McConahay, is powerfully written! A story of two war journalists whose friendship is tested when one decides to quit because she, "just can't take another picture of a dead body."
"I left because I wanted to do something that would make a difference, even in one or two lives, when it didn't seem I was making any difference by taking pictures."
Seeing war and it's effects from a woman's perspective was a new experience for me. We usually hear about war from a males point of view. This was poignant and gripping.
"Journalism is not a job but a blood type, fate and identification...
I'm glad I took a chance with this. The question posed in the blurb is still weighing on me.
"What is our responsibility to history? To individuals?"
**This book was graciously given to me my Shebooks publishing via Netgalley**