cover image Embassy Wife

Embassy Wife

Katie Crouch. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-28034-5

Crouch (Abroad) pulls off an entertaining and insightful exposé of diplomatic life in Namibia with the story of three women whose children attend an international school in the country’s capital. Persephone, a slightly daft, often drunk, and always patriotic American “embassy wife” takes over the school’s International Day fund-raiser from Mila, a beautiful but imperious Namibian with a mysterious past. Amanda, the newbie “trailing spouse,” whose husband persuaded her to leave a high-powered job in Silicon Valley, is bored. All three are married to creeps with secrets: Persephone’s husband is counsel to the American ambassador; Mila’s is Namibia’s transportation minister; and Amanda’s is a Fulbright scholar, whose stint in the Peace Corps in Namibia 20 years earlier was cut short after his involvement in a car accident. Amanda’s socializing with Persephone leads to an effort to protect rhinos, one at a time (“Personally protecting it, I mean. By visiting it. And... you know. Patrolling the area,” Persephone explains); as they scale up the project, their husbands’ misdeeds surface. Crouch presses her female characters to their limits, reaching notes of genuine triumph without sacrificing the wry comedy, while the red dust and heat of Namibia radiate off the page. This is a blast. Agent: Rob McQuilkin, Massie & McQuilkin. (July)