Summary and book reviews of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul

By Bob Shacochis

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2013,
    640 pages.
    Paperback: 12 Aug 2014,
    736 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

Renowned through four award-winning books for his gritty and revelatory visions of the Caribbean, Bob Shacochis returns to occupied Haiti in The Woman Who Lost Her Soul before sweeping across time and continents to unravel tangled knots of romance, espionage, and vengeance. In riveting prose, Shacochis builds a complex and disturbing story about the coming of age of America in a pre-9/11 world.

When humanitarian lawyer Tom Harrington travels to Haiti to investigate the murder of a beautiful and seductive photojournalist, he is confronted with a dangerous landscape riddled with poverty, corruption, and voodoo. It's the late 1990s, a time of brutal guerrilla warfare and civilian kidnappings, and everyone has secrets. The journalist, whom he knew years before as Jackie Scott, had a bigger investment in Haiti than it seemed, and to make sense of her death, Tom must plunge back into a thorny past and his complicated ties to both Jackie and Eville Burnette, a member of Special Forces who has been assigned to protect her.

From the violent, bandit-dominated terrain of World War II Dubrovnik to the exquisitely rendered Istanbul in the 1980s, Shacochis brandishes Jackie's shadowy family history with daring agility. Caught between her first love and the unsavory attentions of her father, an elite spy and quintessential Cold War warrior pressuring his daughter to follow in his footsteps, seventeen-year-old Jackie hatches a desperate escape plan that puts her on course to becoming the soulless woman Tom equally feared and desired.

Set over fifty years and in four countries backdropped by different wars, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul is a magnum opus that brings to life, through the mystique and allure of history, an intricate portrait of catastrophic events that led up to the war on terror and the America we are today.

Excerpt
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul

During the final days of the occupation, there was an American woman in Haiti, a photojournalist—blonde, young, infuriating—and she became Thomas Harrington's obsession.

Why have you never told me the story of this girl? Harrington's wife asked, dumbfounded but curious. They stood in the kitchen of their gardenia-scented home in South Miami, finishing the vodka cocktails she had mixed to celebrate his reinstallment into her landscaped domain, its calibrated patterns, everything perfectly in its place except her husband.

Why have you waited until now? A pained crinkle etched a border of mystification around the brightness of her eyes.

Expecting an answer, she followed him through the house, upstairs to their sun-scoured bedroom where he began unpacking his filthy clothes. Here, he said with a hopeful trace of enthusiasm, this is for you, and he gave her a gift he had brought from Port-au-Prince, a small but moderately ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

This is not an easy book to read - for one thing it is over 700 pages long. For another, the attentions that Steve Chambers bestows on his daughter are enough to creep you out. Equally, this is a difficult book to digest. The scope of American intervention and the incredible machinery set in place to keep the giant appeased are depressing to say the least. Yet it is hard to look away. Like the country for which she is supposed to be a metaphor, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul might be deeply flawed, sometimes crass and vulgar, but she is also vulnerable and vividly unforgettable.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Gritty characters find themselves in grueling situations against a moral and physical landscape depicted in rich language as war-torn, resilient, angry, evil, and hopeful.

Booklist

Starred Review. A beautifully written, Norman Mailer–like treatise on international politics, secret wars, espionage, and terrorism...A brilliant book, likely to win prizes, with echoes of Joseph Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, and John le Carré.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Shacochis thinks big, and his new novel (his first in two decades) is truly magisterial...immensely readable, this eye-opener (which could have been titled "Why We Are in the Middle East") is essential reading.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. An often depressing, cautionary and thoroughly excellent tale of the excesses of empire, ambition and the too easily fragmented human soul.

Author Blurb Robert Olen Butler
No one in American literature is better at casting his imagination into the deepest currents of American culture and politics than Bob Shacochis. The long, ardent, admiring wait for his next novel has been worth every moment: The Woman Who Lost Her Soul is his masterpiece.

Author Blurb Sven Birkerts
Bob Shacochis is the man for all syntheses, confabulating decades of time and volumetric immensities of geography into pitched and vivid dramatic narrative. Long in the making, but longer in the lasting, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul is unafraid of its ambitions. Shacochis is, in Glengarry-speak, a 'closer'.

Author Blurb Susan Cheever
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul will grab you from the first sentence and keep you gasping and laughing and weeping until the end...Shacochis writes like an angel, and in this novel of culture, betrayal and love he has found a perfect subject.

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The U.S. Military-Industrial Complex

In The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, you can see the United States' complex diplomatic and espionage mechanisms at work. As the cliché goes, freedom is expensive. The vastness of this network is complemented by a parallel one, the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex, a term coined by President Eisenhower to cover the many industries, lobbyists and other interests who benefit from the spending might of the American military.

During World War II, industries working toward providing goods for the war in the United States flourished. It is no secret why the economy was vibrant - a lot of goods were necessary to keep the war effort fueled. But once the war was over, the armaments industry and its associated offshoots weren't dialed down much. ...

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