Sand Queen

Helen Benedict. Soho, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-569-47966-7
Two women, an Iraqi refugee whose father and young brother were detained by American soldiers, and a 19-year-old American Army Specialist, wrestle with the complexities of war in Benedict's thrilling and thoughtful new novel. Hot on the heels of the shock and awe attack of 2003, soldier Kate Brady meets Naema Jassim at Camp Bucca, a huge U.S. prison in Iraq. Naema and other Iraqis come daily in search of men detained by the Americans. Something about Naema, her English skills or medical background, calls to Kate, and they form an awkward relationship based in need. Wanting to do something good, Kate investigates the fate of Naema's family. Both women struggle with the war, the death of innocents, abuses of soldiers (both male and female), and atrocities witnessed; they dream of "a world where people have normal nonviolent lives." Kate's eventual deterioration—from an attempted rape and the official and unofficial backlash that follows, to the loss of a fellow female soldier—leads to her breakdown and hospitalization. Naema's stoicism in the face of hopelessness makes sense, and contrasts well with Kate's struggle to stay strong. Though Benedict (The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq) might have found Naema's soul, she never brings her off the page. Kate, however, is a character readers won't soon forget. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/13/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4821-0157-7
Open Ebook - 159 pages - 978-1-56947-967-4
Paperback - 315 pages - 978-1-61695-184-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-62460-524-6
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