Kim Barnes is a genius. I got so swept away in the company of her ruthless, ruthful, grasping men that for the space of 314 pages I was Virginia Mae (Gin) McPhee. Thanks to Barnes's masterly personification, Gin breaks the bonds of the mere mundane fictional heroine - cuts the marionette strings as it were - and blooms into an irrepressible everywoman.
I apologize if I mix metaphors. Especially because my prose can do so little justice to Barnes's elegant hand. But trust me. You won't regret reading this book. Even though you may think you know the tale. And I'm almost certain that you know someone just like Gin. If you have seen the AMC television series Mad Men
, if you have read the news, and if you are familiar with the Old Testament, you know Gin's story. It begins both with and in (metaphorically speaking) the Bible. Indeed, her Holy Roller grandfather nails Gin...
Beyond the Book
In In the Kingdom of Men
, Gin McPhee finds herself plopped inside an ARAMCO (Arabian American Oil Company) compound in the 1960s, an oasis that is neither wholly American nor Arabic but is somehow an incongruous mashup within a country still grappling with the culture shock wrought by 20th century capitalism. But what did that culture shock look like in real life?
Eons of social and economic tradition had established a tight symbiotic relationship between Arab desert nomads (Bedouin) and the...