BookBrowse Reviews In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

In the Kingdom of Men

A Novel

by Kim Barnes

In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2012, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A novel of greed and deceit and about an American marriage stumbling toward ruin, set in Saudi Arabia

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 to a biblical cross from the start; shortly after going to live with the crusty old preacher - from whom her late grandmother had long ago escaped - "I learned that I was the daughter of Eve, a danger to myself, a temptation to those around me."

Whether her gramps was a blathering, sanctimonious fool or was damning her to a self-fulfilling prophecy, I will let you decide. But in her grandfather's home and at his Sunday tent meetings, Gin's rebelliousness steeps under the roiling pressure of such strict religious zealotry that she is not even permitted to play on the girls' high school basketball team or wear the capri pants so popular in the mid-1960s. She is forced to hide library books from the old man who disdains educating women. Little wonder that she escapes via a shotgun marriage to Mason McPhee, her high school crush. Then they both escape via his dream of a job with the oil company ARAMCO to an American compound in Saudi Arabia. Yes. It's a compound. It is embedded deep in the very greenhouse that spawned the stories in the Bible, the tale of Eve daring to eat from the tree of knowledge.

The images, the metaphors culled from ancient and modern fables, drift across the pages as Gin learns, then balks, and finally rebels at the rules that would constrain her. Rules that she sees as arbitrary and stacked against her. Rules ginned up by men, paranoid over their tenuous grip on power. And it isn't long before even Mason finds himself in a kingdom of company men who will resort to any means to maintain their slippery grasp on dominion.

Oh boy. Just reviewing passages as I write this review makes me want to go back and re-read the whole book and luxuriate in all the wonderful allusions to stories that men have told since the beginning of time. I love this job.

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review was originally published in June 2012, and has been updated for the February 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: New People
    New People
    by Danzy Senna
    Danzy Senna has spent virtually her entire writing career exploring the complicated intersections of...
  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...
  • Book Jacket: The Black Witch
    The Black Witch
    by Laurie Forest
    In The Black Witch, Laurie Forest introduces her readers to an immersive fantasy world where ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
News of the World by Paulette Jiles

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Heart's Invisible Furies
    by John Boyne

    A sweeping, heartfelt saga set in Ireland from the author of The Boy In the Striped Pajamas.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.