cover image Paris Metro

Paris Metro

Wendell Steavenson. Norton, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-60978-3

Terrorism arrives on one journalist’s doorstep in Steavenson’s expansive debut novel. Kit has spent her adult life traveling between difficult places—from Baghdad in 2003 to Kos, Greece, in 2015 to cover the influx of Syrian refugees. Along the way, she falls in love with a charming Iraqi, Ahmed—who may be working for the UN or who may just be untrustworthy—and becomes stepmother to Ahmed’s son, known as Little Ahmed. Kit’s friends joke about her chronic “bad luck” because she always narrowly misses the opportunity to witness scenes of violence and catastrophe firsthand. But all that changes when, in 2015, having returned to Paris, Kit first loses a friend in the Charlie Hebdo shootings and later fears that a loved one may have played a role in the November terror attacks. Steavenson, the author of several books of international reporting (The Weight of a Mustard Seed, etc.), skillfully writes about the history and politics of global conflicts; the novel’s first half, which could almost read like a fictionalized journalistic memoir, is balanced by its far more emotional second half. The false dichotomy of an “us vs. them” divide, the lingering prejudices of a protagonist who once thought herself above such things, the knowledge that solutions are rarely, if ever, tidy—all are wrestled with throughout a novel that powerfully merges the personal and the political. (Mar.)