cover image Planes


Peter C. Baker. Knopf, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-32027-3

Inspired by the North Carolina Stop Torture Now coalition, Baker’s arresting debut charts the effects of rendition on an Italian Muslim convert and an American former anti-war activist. Amira, 32, feels like an outcast living in the small Rome apartment she once shared with her Moroccan husband, Ayoub, who was detained in Pakistan, then extradited and tortured for suspicion of unspecified crimes. When Ayoub returns after years of silence except for the redacted letters he sent to Amira, he is not the man Amira once knew, and though an American lawyer is working on his case, the future seems dubious for them both. Running alongside this narrative is the story of Melanie, a real estate agent in North Carolina who is cheating on her husband with Bradley, a member of the local school board. Bradley also happens to be the president of Atlantic Industries, a small Air America–style operation that stands accused of providing rendition flights. Now, Melanie becomes consumed with guilt over her hesitancy to help her old activist friends dig into Bradley’s shadowy activities. Baker masterly juggles the two concurrent story lines, never losing the urgency of either as Amira and Melanie grapple with hard truths and seek justice and indemnification. Along the way, the author digs deep into the nuances of love, pain, betrayal, and the promise of deliverance. This moving debut buzzes with relevance. Agent: Chris Clemans, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (May)