Barnes’s latest (after A Country Called Home) is an immersive and bracing exploration of one woman’s search for freedom amid repression. Suffocated by the patriarchal strictures of her 1960s evangelical Oklahoma home, Virginia Mitchell elopes with the noble Mason McPhee. They move first to Texas, where Mason works on an oil rig, and then to Saudi Arabia, where he is fast-tracked for management at Aramco. Gin bristles against the comfortable but circumscribed lives of the Aramco wives—suspended between the libertine sexual mores of the boozy expat community and the sexless, draconian prohibitions of the Saudi virtue police. When Mason organizes the Bedouin workers against the company’s abuses and stumbles onto a deadly coverup, Gin must brave a wilderness of corporate lawlessness to save him. Gin is a delightful heroine whose tenacity animates those around her, a quality that lays the groundwork for an extraordinary adventure and unsettling conclusion. Barnes deftly teases humanity out of corruption and hypocrisy, and her language is finely wrought and her pacing masterful—Gin’s story develops languidly, then draws taut as the stakes rise. Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand, Brick House Literary. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2012 Release date: 05/29/2012 Genre: Fiction
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