Summary and book reviews of The Distance Between Us by Masha Hamilton

The Distance Between Us

By Masha Hamilton

The Distance Between Us
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2004,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2005,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

Caddie Blair feels everything strongly—and so she works hard to keep her distance. It's the ethical thing for a journalist to do, especially in a war-torn region like the Middle East. And Caddie wants to believe that nothing is as important as covering "the story."

There's room for passion in her life—but that's only physical. And Caddie keeps even those fleeting attachments under wraps, secretive, because she knows that when a journalist even appears to lose her detachment, she is already lost.

So what is Caddie to feel when her lover dies beside her—shot in an ambush on the way to the next promising political interview, across the Israeli border into Lebanon?

An authentic look at the emotional and ethical chaos within a war correspondent who becomes a bit too involved, Masha Hamilton's The Distance Between Us is a straight-ahead story of human passion—desire, conviction, and the guilt of a survivor—struggling for order within the frayed justice of the Middle East conflict.

A seasoned journalist herself, Masha Hamilton brings to this revealing novel the sharp eye and deep empathy that marked her debut, Staircase of a Thousand Steps (BlueHen, 2001). Beautifully turned, and peopled with an astounding cast of characters who are as true as they are perceptive, The Distance Between Us is finally the portrait of one woman's search for the narrow pass between vengeance and emotional survival, when her only true attachment has been torn away from her.

"If we knew where we were going to fall," the novel's most enigmatic character tells her, "we could spread straw."

Chapter One

The whole of heaven is off-balance as they rumble out of the city: clouds one moment, darting sunlight the next. A dust shroud swirling around the Land Rover prevents Caddie from seeing where they are going or where they’ve been. Far behind them, a mosque wails its hellfire summons to those who believe. It’s noon, then, and men of conviction are submitting their foreheads to the ground in a graceful wave, while she barrels forward into the formless, blind middle of a day.

The Land Rover rattles like a crate of scrap metal. Her shoulders ache, she’s inhaling cupfuls of powdered dirt and they have at least another ninety minutes to go. But those are only irritants. Her real worry is the driver, a complete unknown. Rob and the hotel concierge rounded him up when the regular chauffeur, the one Rob assured her was "the best in Beirut," didn’t show. A driver is their lifeline in dusty, uncharted territory. This guy, well—she catches her ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
An exclusive interview with an elusive Lebanese crime king and thug—the kind of opportunity that every journalist lives for in the war-torn Middle East. But for Caddie Blair and her colleagues en route to just such an assignment, things are off-balance from the start. Not long into the trip, their Land Rover is ambushed by a band of radical militiamen, and photojournalist Marcus Lancour—Caddie's colleague, friend, and lover—is shot and killed in an assignment gone awry.

So begins this engaging account of an impassioned journalist who believes that getting the story—while remaining detached from the situation and the people involved—is everything. As Caddie says, if you get too close, you feel too much. ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
The Christian Science Monitor

[An] exciting novel .... we're left thinking about the human tragedy rather than the political scorecard ... [Hamilton's] determined to plumb the conflicted motives of people who rush to see danger in the world or in their newspaper. The result is a powerful portrayal of religious warfare and an unsettling challenge to anyone watching.

The San Francisco Chronicle

The plotting is flawless. The pacing is just right—sometimes reflective, sometimes action-packed. Hamilton is an accomplished stylist as well ... Perhaps most unusual of all, Hamilton the journalist gets the fictional journalists just right.

Midwest Book Review, August 2004, by Laurel Johnson

I could endlessly quote passages of glorious prose from this book, but won't. I'll let readers discover Hamilton's gifted way with words for themselves. The author has given us the scents, sights, and sounds of Jerusalem, the sorrows shared by Israeli and Arab cousins. And she's put starkly realistic faces on human weaknesses and strengths......Graceful, luminous, elegant, beguiling. Characters multi-faceted...plot engaging first page to last. Discover Hamilton’s gifted way with words. A winner.

Kirkus Reviews

Thoughtfully written but emotionally distant and overly cerebral.

Library Journal - Christopher J Korenowsky

With prose both beguiling and elegant, the story will strike a chord in readers following current events in the Middle East.

Booklist - Marta Segal

All sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are presented fairly. Punchy dialogue and prose style turn this introspective look at violence and loss into a page-turner.

Publishers Weekly

Starred review. This is an affecting, viscerally charged work that offers no easy moral answers.

Author Blurb Gayle Brandeis, author of The Book of Dead Birds
What a powerful, intense, beautifully written story. Masha Hamilton takes us right into the brutal heart of the war zone, right into the guarded heart of journalist Caddie Blair. With spare and stunning prose, Hamilton reminds us that the distance between us often isn't as great as we may think.

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Beyond the Book

Hamilton dedicates her book to Kevin Carter, the Pulitzer-winning photograph particularly known for the photograph that personified the Sudanese famine - a tiny girl squatting on scrawny knees, head drooping heavily with a vulture lurking behind. Two months after collecting his award Carter attached a garden hose to his exhaust pipe and gassed himself.  The note beside him on the passenger seat read 'The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist'.

For a summarized history of the region try these links, each covers broadly the same events, but each with their own subtle differences in interpretation.

    ...

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