Summary and book reviews of And West Is West by Ron Childress

And West Is West

by Ron Childress

And West Is West by Ron Childress
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2016, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick

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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the prestigious PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, And West Is West is an inspired novel about two young people who learn, the hard way, about the devastating power of new technology to isolate us from the consequences of our actions.

When Jessica, a young Air Force drone pilot in Nevada, is tasked with launching a missile against a suspected terrorist halfway across the world, she realizes that though women and children are in the crosshairs of her screen, she has no choice but to follow orders. Ethan, a young Wall Street quant, is involved in a more bloodless connection to war when he develops an algorithm that enables his company's clients to profit by exploiting the international financial instability caused by exactly this kind of antiterrorist strike. These two are only minor players, but their actions have global implications that tear lives apart - including their own. When Jessica finds herself discharged from the service and Ethan makes an error that costs him his job, both find themselves adrift, cast out by a corrupt system and forced to take the blame for decisions they did not make.

In And West Is West, Ron Childress has crafted a powerful, politically charged, and terrifyingly real scenario that takes readers into the lives of characters living in different worlds yet bound together by forces beyond their control.

July, 2012
Nevada, Somalia, Florida



They are twined, all but, she and Voigt. He is leaning over her shoulder, his forearm atop her chairback. His lips are so close to her ear that each breath he exhales roars like a gale. This is all she hears inside the dim trailer. The glowing screens before her keep them immobile. They are frozen except for the motion of her hand as she centers the camera. The moment is near. This time he is going to let her do it.

"Aldridge. Are you ready for your first?"

"Yes, sir," Jessica tells Colonel Voigt as if they are in the same room. They are and are not. Sergeant Jessica Aldridge is also eight thousand miles away, ten thousand feet in the air, and so near the figures on the ground below her that she might reach down and pick them up like dolls.

They are five, outlined by their jalabiyas and the scarves that circle the glow of their faces. Jessica's squadron has been tracking them, a band of brothers, for the past two weeks as they acquired the...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Novels with a strong social message – much like vegan food – tend to come in two types: blatantly good for you with little attempt to dress up the flavor, or deceptively healthy, so tasty you don't even realize you are consuming something that's beneficial. The former tend to favor theme over plot or characterization. The latter category is harder to pull off, requiring embedding a social agenda within a compelling, organic story. These differing approaches kept coming to mind as I read Ron Childress' And West is West, a novel that addresses some serious, even urgent, social questions but which seems at times more interested in scoring quick points for being socially conscious than really exploring the issues it raises in a thoughtful and thorough way.   (Reviewed by James Broderick).

Full Review (818 words).

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Media Reviews

Kansas City Star

[E]xtraordinary. . . Through graceful and controlled writing, the novel shows that whether we’re operating by proxy or directly and tangibly affecting someone, we’re all not only responsible for one another, but absolutely must assume responsibility for ourselves.

Kirkus Reviews

Ethan and Jessica may be victims of systems of corruption, but they're also victims of their own dumb mistakes; they're screw-ups, not martyrs. Socially engaged but otherwise unengaging.

Publishers Weekly

This compelling debut novel, which won the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, dramatically examines the insidious role unrestrained technology plays in the moral and ethical corruption of people, institutions, and government ... This is an excellent story, well told, suspenseful, and tragic.

Library Journal

[A] strong first novel ... This powerful and morally chilling tale depicts the chasm modern technology can create between actions and consequences - and the effects that has on the individuals carrying out the actions.

Booklist

[C]ombines elements of technological sophistication in both drone warfare and financial manipulation with the hip social whirl of New York and Washington.

The Washington Post

[A] gritty debut. . . It’s a master study in how people can emotionally detach themselves from the damage they cause in our computer-driven world.

Author Blurb Barbara Kingsolver
Impressive and keenly relevant to our time, And West Is West weaves seamlessly between drone strikes and high-speed trading on Wall Street. I devoured it in forty-eight hours, and during the hours I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. I still am.

Author Blurb Terry McMillan
I'm impressed by the power of Ron Childress's voice and the accuracy with which he describes human behavior. He's an intelligent and gifted writer who doesn't show off - he knows how to tell a story that you won't forget.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

PTSD: The Drone Pilot Version

Societal awareness of PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – has certainly increased over the past several years. What was once a term familiar mostly to combat veterans and survivors of abuse, and their therapists, is now much more widely recognized. For most people outside the military and medical communities, the term probably calls to mind a chaotic, frightening image of combat: military patrols amid firefights and ambushes, soldiers dodging sniper fire, and roaring artillery shells maiming soldiers and civilians.

But as war has changed so too have some of the casualties of war-related stress. With a huge uptick in militarized drone strikes over the past several years, the U.S. military is now facing a problem in the loss ...

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