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In the Kingdom of Men

A Novel

by Kim Barnes

In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes
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  • First Published:
    May 2012, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Power Reviewer Diane S.

In the Kingdom of Men
Lawrence of Arabia, Arabian nights, I remember reading so much history centering on Arabia that when I saw this book I knew it was one I had to read.

In the 1960's Gin McPhee finds herself, with her husband in Saudi Arabia when her husband finds work with the Saudi American oil company Aramco. Ginny who was raised, after the unfortunate demise of her mother and grandmother, in Oklahoma by her often punishing grandfather, who was a Pentecostal minister. They live in an American compound, strictly guarded, due to the restrictive nature of this society towards its women. In elegant prose, and beautifully rendered scenery we follow Gin as she attempts to find fulfillment in this place, that she finds so stifling but at the same time fascinating. Tempting fate she takes chances and stumbles on to a secret that has adverse effects for all involved.

This is a wonderful novel, not only about the curiosity of a woman who wants to grow and find out what she can become but also for the political strife between the Arabs and Israel and the impact of the oil company in this country. Loved every minute of this book.
Power Reviewer Becky H

Living in a company town
One of my friends lived in an ARAMCO compound during the 1960’s. The life depicted in THE KINGDOM OF MEN is much as she described it. Gin is running from a constricted life with a fundamentalist grandfather and finds herself living in the even more constricted fundamentalist Saudi kingdom. Even though she and her husband are living in luxurious surroundings, life for Gin is boring and racist for her husband.
By befriending both her driver and her houseboy Gin is in violation of both ARAMCO and Kingdom policies. Mason in attempting to live the ideals of Martin Luther King also violates policy and then uncovers greed and corruption. Both find themselves in fear for their lives and those of their friends. Although the ending is unsatisfying, the novel as a whole is worthwhile.
An interesting story with characters you like (and dislike) teaches a fair amount of history of the Kingdom and oil. Book groups will discuss fundamentalist religions, ethnic differences, the position of women in society, dealing with boredom, whistle blowers and company corruption, Americans in foreign societies, interactions between men and women and the price of gas.
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