cover image Ghost Season

Ghost Season

Fatin Abbas. Norton, $28.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-324-00174-4

Abbas debuts with an impressive account of five people who work for a humanitarian organization as war threatens their town on the border of North and South Sudan. William Luol, a Nilot, has been hired as a translator for Alex, an American, who’s been sent there to make a map of the area to guide aid efforts. William has a crush on Layla, the organization compound’s nomad cook, whom he worries about when she doesn’t show for work one day and a burned corpse is found upriver. He asks 12-year-old Mustafa, who cleans the compound, to find out where she lives, while Dena, a Sudanese American filmmaker staying for a few months, documents the herdsmen who brought the body to be buried, as rumors fly of renewed clashes with Southern rebels. Layla reappears and things between her and William blossom, while Alex, frustrated by impediments to his mapmaking, fights with Dena. Meanwhile, Mustafa secretly gets involved running guns for the rebels, and all become on edge when militias arrive in town and target Nilotes. With security deteriorating, Alex tries to evacuate, but a weather delay forces him back, and events that follow have heavy consequences for all. Abbas skillfully navigates boundaries between the disparate players and builds a fine drama out of their negotiations and bonds. Readers will be captivated by this immersive novel. (Jan.)