Saudi Oil Communities
One of the stories in the Lola series finds Lola and her husband living in a Saudi Arabian compound for employees of the British Petroleum oil corporation. Oil companies have operated such managed communities in strategic areas of operation around the world for much of the 20th century and continue to do so today. Dhahran is the largest of four communities run by the Saudi oil company Aramco. Children of Aramco employees ("Aramcons") call themselves "Aramco brats," and their communities resemble military bases in many ways, with common areas, swimming pools, shopping centers, and schools. Aramco even produces its own magazine called Saudi Aramco World, which is published in the United States by an Aramco subsidiary. Fewer American and British expatriates live in these communities today than in decades past; in 2004, about 85% of the workforce was Saudi, compared to 60% in the 1970's. In a 2004 article, The New York Times covered expatriate life and cultural shifts in Aramco compounds.
Anthrax and the Antibiotics "Crisis"
Ward's first story reminds us of the recent past when many were fearful of a large scale anthrax attack in the United States. The main character in the story desperately seeks a pre-emptive prescription of Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic known as "Cipro" that is used to treat anthrax and other bacterial infections. The FDA created a Frequently Asked Questions page to respond to the intense interest in the drug following September 11, 2001. As with many perceived crises, the race for adequate supply of Cipro has nearly faded from our minds, though Ward's story is an effective reminder of the fear and confusion that filled many of our homes during the final months of 2001.
A Sense of Place
The author's biographical information reveals many personal connections to elements and places within the book. Ward has lived in several of the locales where she places her characters and her recurring Lola character of Part Two marries a geologist, just as Ward did in 2000. In an interview, Ward explains that she prefers to write about she knows firsthand. The book's web site includes an interactive behind-the-stories look at some of the author's real life connections to places in the book, and a site-specific story contest.
This article is from the April 22, 2009 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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