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The Woman Who Lost Her Soul Paperback – July 1, 2014
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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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.) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is haunting, dark, and compelling with just enough touches of poignant sensitivity and sensualitiy to leave the reader with a bit of hope. The author's use of language is supreme.
The woman known as Dorothy Kovacevic, Renee Gardner, Dorothy Chambers and finally known asJackie Scott. It seems she was a daughter of a Balkan battlefield survivor in World War II, who's become an American spy chief. She's a beautiful woman, full of intelligence and strength. She was involved now and again with the spy world. The story starts at the end of her life in Haiti in the late 1990s.
We meet her during many aspects if her life., married to a criminal who works for American intelligence. We go back to the Balkans and her father's childhood. And then move to Istanbul, where she is involved in a plot that dirties her and her family. The layers upon layers of the life of this one woman becomes unraveled.
What we have here is this woman involved with the men in this story. The men involved with Intelligence, and the reality of their world is frightening, indeed. This one woman and the investigation into her life, exposes the intelligence world, and an unseemly and frightening world that is. Exquisite writing, but much too long. Have patience.
Recommended. prisrob 10_03-13
As a previous reviewer has already said, I didn't see this one coming. I would suggest that this is Mr. Shacochis' masterwork. As a reader, you are pulled from Haiti to East Europe to Turkey and beyond until the full picture of a complex and dark life finally fits together. The prose are not pretentious but Mr. Shacochis gives full and free rein to his considerable descriptive abilities. I find it always takes me awhile to get used to his characters speech being delivered as part of the narrative as opposed the standard quoted style but this is integral part of the style and gets easier as one goes along. This is not an accelerated pulp thriller but it is a page turner nonetheless. Not for everyone, I am sure but highly recommended.
The book begins somewhat dry and, admittedly, in a setting I didn't find particularly interesting. The characters begin to be developed and the opening of the book ebbs and flows between mildly interesting exposition and dull descriptions of settings and events that are (in my opinion) pretty irrelevant. The murder mystery intrigue definitely helps push through the dry sections though. However, I found the first part of this book was decent exposition.
The middle 350 pages or so are EXCELLENT. I absolutely loved them. They take the primary character and dive deep into their background and history, making the two middle sections of the book like fascinating short stories. I found the middle of this book to be a real page turner, the best written section of the book by far, and a wonderful read. The settings vary wildly from each other and from the beginning of the book. You begin to care about these characters and obtain a profound sense of who they are and where they come from. I would read the middle to parts of this book as independent short stories and would still enjoy them immensely.
And then I arrived at the last part of the book and I just hit a wall. Truly the only thing that pushed me through to the end was the fact that I had invested so much time in the book and wanted to see how to puzzle pieces fell into place based on the character development. The ending 150-200 pages are deathly boring. Maybe you'd enjoy them if you like middle-aged military types rambling on and on and on while they golf, but there were times I found the end of this book painful to get through. It was a shame because of how much I had enjoyed what came before. After the thrilling middle section, the final part of this book arrives like a giant tone anvil that just destroys any interest that came before. I never ever give up on books I make it through the first 50 pages of, and I was extremely close to giving up on this one, the final section was that bad.
It may have just been a personal feeling about the end so it is worth a read, but read with caution and be prepared to invest quite a bit of time in this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Identity and betrayal. Beautiful and evocative prose. Masterful. Kudos to you.