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Acts of Faith [Anglais] [Relié]

Philip Caputo
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Man of All Races

In his early twenties, after two undistinguished and troubled years at university, Fitzhugh Martin had achieved a modest celebrity as center forward for the Harambe Stars, which are to Kenyan soccer as the New York Yankees are to baseball. A sportswriter had nicknamed him “The Ambler,” because he never seemed to run very fast, his leisurely movements caused not by slow feet but by a quick tactical eye that allowed him to read the field in a glance and be where he needed to be with economy of motion.

He traveled with the club throughout Africa, to Europe, and once to the United States. He saw something of the world, and what he saw—namely the shocking contrast between the West and his continent—convinced him to do something more with himself than chase a checkered ball up and down a field. He’d heard a kind of missionary call, quit soccer, and became a United Nations relief worker, first in Somalia and then in Sudan.

That was the story he told, but it wasn’t entirely true: a serious knee injury that required two operations was as responsible for his leaving the sport as a Pauline epiphany. Or maybe the injury was the mother of the epiphany; sitting on the bench with his taped knee, he knew his career was as good as over and wondered what to do with the rest of his life. Of course, if he hadn’t had a social conscience to begin with, he would not have made the choice he did, and that conscience was formed by his ancestry. He had come to Kenya from the Seychelles Islands when he was eight years old, the eldest of three children born to a French, Irish, and Indian father and a mother who was black, Arab, and Chinese. The emigration took Fitzhugh from a place where tribalism was unknown and race counted for little to a land where tribe and race counted for everything. His family wasn’t poor—his father managed a coastal resort near Mombasa—but he came to identify with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, because he grew up on the margins of Kenyan society, a boy without a tribal allegiance or a claim to any one race, for all the races of the earth were in him. He was the eternal outsider who was never allowed to forget that he was an alien, even at the height of his athletic fame. His skin was brown, yet the white Kenyans, children and grandchildren of colonial settlers, were more accepted than he, a tribe unto themselves.

After he worked for a year in Somalia, the UN promoted him to field monitor and assigned him to its operations in Sudan. Now a corporal in the army of international beneficence, he wandered in southern Sudan for weeks at a time, stalking the beast of hunger and devising strategies to hold the numbers of its victims to some acceptable minimum. That vast unhappy region captured him body and soul; it became the stage where Fitzhugh Martin played the role he believed destiny had assigned him. “The goddamned, bleeding, fucked-up Sudan,” he would say. “I don’t know what it is about that place. It sucks you in. You see some eighteen-year-old who’s been fighting since he was fourteen and can tell you war stories that will give you nightmares, but drop a piece of ice in his hands and he’s amazed. Never seen or felt ice before, never seen water turned to stone, and you get sucked in.” He meant to do all in his power to save the southern Sudanese from the curses of the apocalypse and a few the author of Revelation hadn’t thought of, like the tribalism that caused the southerners to inflict miseries on themselves. That was where his cosmopolitan blood became an advantage. He moved with ease among Dinka, Nuer, Didinga, Tuposa, Boya; the tribes trusted the tribeless man who had no ethnic axes to grind.

He loved being in the bush and hated returning to the UN base at Loki. It had the look of a military installation, ringed by coils of barbed wire. The field managers and flight coordinators and logistics officers—to his eyes a mob of ambitious bureaucrats or risk-lovers seeking respectable adventure—drove around like conquerors in white Land Rovers sprouting tall radio antennae; they lived and worked in tidy blue and white bungalows, drank their gins and cold beers at bars that looked like beach resort tiki bars, and ate imported meats washed down with imported wines. When Loki’s heat, dust, and isolation got to be too much, they went to Europe on R&R, or to rented villas in the cool highland suburbs of Nairobi, where they were waited on, driven, and guarded by servants whose grandparents probably had waited on, driven, and guarded the British sahibs and memsahibs of bygone days. They were the new colonials, and Fitzhugh grew to loathe them as much as he loathed the old-time imperialists who had pillaged Africa in the name of the white man’s burden and the mission civilisatrice.

When he wasn’t in Sudan, he who had grown up on the edge of things dwelled on the edge of the compound, in a mud-walled hut with a makuti roof and two windows lacking glass and screens; it wasn’t much better than the squalid twig-and-branch tukuls of the Turkana settlement that sprawled outside the wire, along the old Nairobi-Juba road. Inside were a hard bed under a mosquito net, a chair, and a desk knocked together out of scrap lumber. Fitzhugh’s only concession to modern comfort was electricity, supplied by a generator; his only bow to interior decoration, the posters of his heroes, Bob Marley, Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela. Asceticism did not come naturally to him. Self-denial is easy for people with attenuated desires and appetites; Fitzhugh’s were in proportion to his size. He could down a sixteen-ounce Tusker in two or three swallows and inhaled meals the way he did cigarettes. He loved women, and when he came out of the bush, he would sweep through the compound, scooping up Irish girls and American girls and Canadian girls. (He stayed away from the local females, fearing AIDS or the swifter retribution of a Turkana father’s rifle or spear.) Inevitably, he would feel guilty about indulging himself and go on a binge of monkish abstinence.

He met Douglas Braithwaite exactly two months and eighteen days after the UN fired him, an encounter whose date he would come to recall with as much bitterness as precision. Years later he tried to persuade himself that he and the American had come together for reasons he couldn’t fathom but hoped to discover, hidden somewhere in the machinery of destiny or in the designs of an inscrutable providence. Who among us, when an apparently chance meeting or some other random occurrence changes us profoundly, can swallow the idea that it was purely accidental?

Over and over Fitzhugh would trace the succession of seeming coincidences that caused the path of his life to converge with Douglas’s. He never would have laid eyes on the man if he hadn’t lost his job; he would not have lost it if . . . well, you get the idea. If he could map how it happened, he would find out why.

Eventually Fitzhugh’s mental wanderings led him back to the day he was born, but he was no closer to uncovering the secret design. So he was forced to abandon his quest for the why and settle for the how, a narrative whose beginning he fixed on the day a bonfire burned in the desert.

The High Commissioners of World Largesse, as he called his employers, occasionally overestimated the amount of food they would need to avert mass starvation in Sudan. Blind screw-ups were sometimes to blame; sometimes field monitors deliberately exaggerated the severity of conditions, figuring it was better to err on that side than on the other; and sometimes nature did not cooperate, failing to produce an expected catastrophe. Surpluses would then pile up in the great brown tents pitched alongside the Loki airstrip, tins of cooking oil and concentrated milk, sacks of flour, sorghum, and high-protein cereal stacked on pallets. Once in a while the stuff sat around beyond the expiration dates stamped on the containers. It then was burned. That was standard procedure, and it was followed rigorously, even if the oil had not gone rancid or the flour mealy or the grain rotten.

Mindful that cremating tons of food would make for bad press, the High Commissioners had the dirty work done under cover of darkness at a remote dump site, far out in the sere, scrub-covered plateaus beyond Loki. Truck convoys would leave the UN base before dawn with armed escorts, their loads covered by plastic tarps; for the Turkana, men as lean as the leaf-bladed spears they carried, knew scarcity in the best of times and were consequently skilled and enthusiastic bandits.

And it was the Turkana who blew the whistle. One morning a band of them looking for stray livestock in the Songot mountains, near the Ugandan border, spotted a convoy moving across the plain below and smoke and flames rising from a pit in the distance. The herdsmen went to have a look. That year had been a particularly hard one for the Turkana—sparse rains, the bones of goats and cows chalking the stricken land, shamans crying out to Akuj Apei to let the heavens open. The bush telegraph flashed the news of what the herdsmen had seen from settlement to settlement: The wazungu were burning food! More than all the Turkana put together had ever seen, much less eaten.

The word soon reached Malachy Delaney, a friend of Fitzhugh’s who had been a missionary among the Turkana for so long that they considered him a brother whose skin happened to be white. Apoloreng, they called him, Father of the Red Ox, because his hair had been red when he first came to them. He spoke their dialects as well as they and was always welcome at their rituals and ceremonies. In fact, he was sometimes asked to preside, and anyone who saw him, clapping his hands to tribal songs, leading chants of call and response, had to wonder who had converted whom. Malachy had been reprimanded by the archbishop in Nairobi and once by the Vatican itself for his unorthodox methods.

Revue de presse

Acclaim for Acts of Faith

"Caputo, a Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter turned novelist, writes with astonishing authority, launching several complex plot lines and an enormous, vibrant cast of characters -- aid workers, soldiers, militants, mercenaries, missionaries and corrupt officials. The plot threads join in a propulsive, satisfying finish, inevitably inching demon and deity ever closer together." --Michael Ollove, The Baltimore Sun


"There is plenty to admire about Philip Caputo's new novel but its grandest attraction may be the author's unbridled ambition. This is a huge book . . . And it tells a big, complicated story. He resembles Graham Greene. . . Acts of Faith should be required reading at the service academies, not to mention our various war colleges and other military schools, because Caputo tells us a secret that seems to have escaped even the military's attention. . . He knows something that the geniuses running the Pentagon and CIA haven't learned . . .
Acts of Faith is Caputo's best novel yet."

--Lucian K. Truscott IV, The New York Times Book Review, June 19th


"Philip Caputo's devastating new novel, "Acts of Faith," will be to the era of the Iraq war what Graham Greene's novel "The Quiet American" became to the Vietnam era: a parable about American excursions abroad and the dangers of missionary zeal, a Conradian tale about idealism run amok, capitalistic greed sold as paternalistic benevolence, ignorance disguised as compassion. The novel reads like a combination of Robert Stone (without the drugs), V. S. Naipaul (without the snobbery) and Joan Didion (without the staccato prose) - a modern day "Nostromo" that reverberates with echoes from today's headlines. The characters are all splendidly drawn . . . keenly observed descriptions of the Sudanese landscape . . . Indeed, Mr. Caputo writes with such authority that he's able to invest events that might seem improbable in another novelist's hands with an uncommon degree of verisimilitude, delineating not only the viewpoints of his Western visitors, but also those of the Sudanese rebels and their Islamic opponents with equally sure-handed drama and psychological ballast. The powerful conclusion to this powerful novel not only ratifies one character's observation that "Sudan was a land of illusions," but also underscores the degree to which those illusions often reside in the absolutism of individuals' political and moral convictions."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times, May 3, 2005


“Philip Caputo, from Vietnam onwards, has understood the hardest truths of the modern world better than almost anybody. Acts of Faith is a stunningly unflinching novel. On the surface it is set in Africa, but in fact its true landscape is the ravaged soul of the twenty-first century. Philip Caputo is one of the few absolutely essential writers at work today.” —Robert Olen Butler

“In Acts of Faith Philip Caputo has fashioned a gripping cast of characters and placed them in a spellbinding story. You can’t get any better than that.” —Winston Groom


“Caputo’s ambitious adventure novel, set against a backdrop of the Sudanese wars, makes for a dense, riveting update on Graham Greene’s The Quiet American . . . Caputo presents a sharply observed, sweeping portrait, capturing the incestuous world of the aid groups, Sudan’s multiethnic mix, and the decayed milieu of Kenyan society.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Acts of Faith offers an image of Africa deserving comparison with Conrad, Hemingway, Peter Matthiessen, and Jan de Hartog’s forgotten near-masterpiece The Spiral Road.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Philip Caputo is a splendid, muscular story teller who possesses the crucial power to make endearing ordinary men from diverse fragilities and stubborness.” —Gloria Emerson, Los Angeles Times

“For the past twenty years, Caputo has written parables of hubris upbraided, populated by outsiders whose defects lead them into trouble as unerringly as does fate.” —David Haward Bain, New York Times Book Review

“Caputo lets no one and nothing off the hook.” —Richard Bausch, Washington Post Book World

“Caputo takes on most of the hot-button issues of our time–racism, random violence, disempowerment, the decay of social fabric, even the nature of evil itself–and more than lives to tell the tale.” —Roget L. Simon, Los Angeles Times

Acclaim for Philip Caputo's previous books:

The Voyage

“An adventure filled sea story.” —Andrea Barrett, The New York York Times Book Review

“Genuinely exciting . . . Caputo’s prose is a pleasure . . . The ending satisfies completely, adding layers of intriguing meannig to the already rich adventure story.” —Debra Spark, Chicago Tribune

“A compellig novel that offers both rousing adventure and penetrating insight into the mystery that is family.” —Library Journal

“A high seas classic combined with a mystery . . . a complicated psychological drama . . . an engaging study of the emotional life of young me . . . [their struggles] toward independent adulthood, their rage and love for an unapproachable father.” —Paul Kafka, San Francisco Chronicle

“Caputo is a conjurer of rich atmosphere; he knows the sea and sailing. But he also knows the ways of building finely shaded characters. Readers will find all his talents on display here.”--Brad Hooper, Booklist

“Strongly imagined . . . those who plunge headlong into its dark waters will not soon forget the experience.” Kirkus Reviews


Exiles

“What makes Exiles extraordinary is the lead story, “Standing In,” . . . Here Mr. Caputo brings fresh subtlety to the psychology of exile. It is one of the most engaging works of fiction he has yet produced.” --Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times

“Philip Caputo is a splendid, muscular story teller who possesses the crucial power to make endearing ordinary men from diverse fragilities and stubborness.” —Gloria Emerson, Los Angeles Times

“An urgent, eloquent and unsettling collection of three short novels . . . Caputo’s narrative is as trenchant as it is compelling.” —Brian St. Pierre, San Francisco Chronicle

“Breathtaking . . . a tour of impassioned prose.” —Baltimore Sun

“For the past twenty years, Caputo has written parables of hubris upbraided, populated by outsiders whose defects lead them into trouble as unerringly as does fate . . . [Exiles is] is as good an introduction to Philip Caputo as one can find.” —David Haward Bain, New York Times Book Review

Equation for Evil

“An inventive and topical psychological thriller.” —K. Thomas McFarlane, New York Times Book Review

“A strong story with fully realized, interesting characters, in a prose as controlled as direct as a stare . . . Caputo lets no one and nothing off the hook.” —Richard Bausch, Washington Post Book World

“Thoughtful and riveting . . . Caputo takes on most of the hot-button issues of our time–racism, random violence, disempowerment, the decay of social fabric, even the nature of evil itself–and more than lives to tell the tale.” —Roget L. Simon, Los Angeles Times

“A powerful and thoughtful work . . . Caputo has crafter his story meticulously.” —Tim Long, Miami Herald

Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 688 pages
  • Editeur : Knopf (3 mai 2005)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0375411666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375411663
  • Dimensions du produit: 3,7 x 16,6 x 23,3 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 1.824.093 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Exotic 28 octobre 2010
Par ggaka
Format:Broché
Good writing, good subject, interesting characters. I liked the description of this region of the world, of the conflicting interests and unknown downsides of NGOs. I liked how prejudices (including mine) are put to the test and revealed for what they are.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  42 commentaires
58 internautes sur 62 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 "Sudan...cut off from normal standards...under harsher rules." 5 mai 2005
Par Mary Whipple - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Setting this almost 700-page novel in Sudan and neighboring Kenya, Philip Caputo details the massive aid efforts of non-government organizations (NGOs) from around the world to bring aid into an area so dangerous that the UN will not enter. Using bush pilots and small airlines from Kenya, the NGOs fly into southern Sudan and land on hidden landing strips. The Muslim government of Sudan, located to the north in Khartoum, has long been at war with the oil-rich, largely Christian south, and atrocities, thoroughly described here, occur on a regular basis--the abduction of children for children's armies, the rape and enslavement of women, the maiming and mutilation of the healthy, the cutting off of food and water, and the theft of crucial medical supplies.

Caputo's large cast of characters consists of relief workers in Nuba, an oil-rich area in Sudan--Christian evangelists who bring aid and wish to convert the inhabitants; the International People's Aid group, a humanitarian group from Canada, run by a former Catholic priest; German Emergency Doctors, which operates a local hospital; and the mercenary pilots and owners of small airlines which service the area--along with members of the SPLA; a local Arab warlord allied with the Khartoum government; and members of the international press, most notably CNN.

The novel has a three-fold, rather than single focus--the very real atrocities of war and the real corruption of the Sudanese and Kenyan governments; the real, marginal lives, and real tribal and religious conflicts of the Sudanese people; and the fictional lives, backgrounds, and relationships of the characters. Well over two hundred pages are devoted to the backgrounds of fictional characters, including, sometimes, even the backgrounds of the characters' parents. The characters are people of action and impulse, however, not of thought and contemplation, and it is their actions, not thoughts or past history, which drive the novel. Judicious editing of the lengthy background material, especially at the beginning, could have shortened the novel significantly, tightened it thematically, and improved it dramatically. The three love stories draw in the reader and keep the interest high, but they are given as much space here as the real struggles of the real Sudanese of Nuba.

Caputo's intentions are to publicize the horror of this Sudanese civil war, but he also wants to show that "In Sudan the choice is never between the right thing and the wrong thing but between what is necessary and what isn't"--an ethical conundrum which conflicts with absolute, conventional values and shows the magnitude of the problems. Planes flying aid are sometimes used to smuggle weapons; the desire to save lives on a massive scale sometimes involves the sacrifice of lives on a small scale.

Caputo's vision of man's inner nature is dark. When even a high-minded evangelical makes expedient decisions with horrifying results, and when intense love slowly sputters out, then what is left? Caputo does not provide those answers, nor does the structure of the novel. In a conclusion dependent upon coincidence and melodrama, the reader is left with the idea that in a conflict between good and evil, the best one can hope for is a toss-up. (3.5 stars) Mary Whipple
17 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Minor problems do not sidetrack brilliant book 15 août 2005
Par Mary Reinert - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I found this book totally fascinating. I have no background in the culture, environment, or political situation of the Sudan; yet, I feel I have in some sense been there. Caputo provides a multi-layered picture of the people and places of this war-torn country. My mind's eye could easily envision the land and people; I could almost taste and smell the dust and sweat and had clear mental images of the major characters. The political situation is nothing short of a mess: "In Sudan the choice is never between the right thing and the wrong thing but between what is necessary and what isn't"

I found the characters, however, to be closer to symbols for the many factions working in Africa than real people. The dialogue was particularly distracting in places; it just didn't ring true. Nevertheless, these characters well depicted the forces at work -- the American do-gooder, the war lord, the cynic, the evangelist, the rebel leader, the old-rich, the new-rich, and the victim.

One review suggested that Caputo could better tell the story as non-fiction. He is certainly knowledgeable, and after doing a bit of research, the situation in the Sudan seems accurately presented. His strength is not in writing dialogue that is true; however, I would never have read this book if it wasn't presented as a novel. The relationships developed by the characters keep a reader's interest while providing a sound picture of the Sudan.

I loved the title of the book and if there is one thing I will definitely take from the book, it is the illustration of the conviction and fervor of those who were certain they were right -- so certain that the consequences never matter. At the same time, there are those who were never sure of the decisions they had to make, yet they acted. Both could be said to be carrying out acts of faith. Some because they were sure and others because there is simply nothing else to do.
34 internautes sur 40 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 American Acts Of Faith Brings Acts of Destruction in Sudan 4 mai 2005
Par C. Hutton - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
The best of Philip Caputo's writings concern the chaos and madness of war. His previous books were born out of his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran (see "A Rumor Of War" - 1977 and "Indian Country" - 1987). This time he writes about a war different from his own with masterful results.

He places his American characters in the ugly civil war that turn into genocide in the Sudan. As in Vietnam, his Americans believe that they have the answers and know what is best for the local Sudanese. They don't, and from that premise their growing involvement will bring tragedy by the close of the novel.

His storytelling of American do-gooders in way over their heads approaches epic proportions. It has riveting characters whom the reader will care about their respective fates. This is a long tale at nearly 700 pages -- it is double the length of his other books. "Acts of Faith" will hold your interest and haunt you long after you have set it down for the last time.
13 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 War is a fact of life. And the line between right and wrong is never clear. 15 octobre 2005
Par Linda Linguvic - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I could say that this brand new book by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist is as fresh as today's headlines. But then again, the troubles in Sudan rarely make actual headlines. Rather, life there just goes on and on with seemingly unending problems. War is a fact of life and has been for centuries. The only difference now is that guns and bombs have replaced spears as weapons of choice.

Philip Caputo has taken on a big challenge with this novel. He had to create fictional non-Sudanese characters that would not only be real, but who could also be typical of the aid workers and opportunists attracted to the Sudan. He also tried to explain what it must be like to be Sudanese amidst the depths of upheaval and starvation that is a daily reality. His point of view, however, is through western eyes; the targeted audience are people like myself who are interested in expanding their understanding of peoples and places outside of their experience.

In order to achieve his goal, he created a handful of memorable characters. Quinette is an evangelical Christian from Iowa. She wants to do the right thing and help people. And she thinks that her church group's mission to purchase slaves in order to free them is good deed. She doesn't see how this action can perpetrate slave trade. However, as she continues to live in the Sudan, fall in love with a rebel leader, and get caught up in some controversial actions herself, she soon discovers the hard choices that have to be made.

There are two other American characters. One is Douglas Braithwaite, who starts up an small-plane airline to deliver aid to the Sudanese. Another is Wesley from Texas, one of his pilots. Another pilot is the attractive Canadian woman, Mary. We see their story told through the eyes of Fitzhugh Martin, a mixed-race Kenyan who was once an UN aid worker but now works for the airline. And then thre is Ibrahim Idris, an Arab warlord on a holy mission. We get a glimpse into his life and start to understand him a bit although we never really like him. The book is a long 669 pages and so there is lots of time to develop these characters. After a while I felt I knew each of them.

I loved the book. It was a good read. And I learned something too. Mostly, I learned that there are no easy answers. Every action leads to more and more complexities and the line between right and wrong is always very indistinct.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Truth Comes Out of Us All 22 mai 2005
Par Donald Mitchell - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Acts of Faith will be compared by many to the epic books about how people under stress in exotic circumstances reveal themselves such as The Quiet American. In this case, the stress in question is the desire to do the right thing . . . in a place and time when you will be tempted to let the ends justify the ends.

The war in the Sudan is the centerpiece of Acts of Faith. In this 660+ page novel, Mr. Caputo leisurely lulls you into taking sides against the Arab slavers . . . but reels you into realizing that the Christian do-gooders don't have clean hands either.

The story has several narrators. The most important is Fitzhugh Martin, a multiracial Kenyan who simply wants to have a job, but gains a purpose in life through serving the Sudanese. But Fitzhugh gets more than he bargained for when he joins the zealous American, Doug Braithwaite, in establishing a bush airline to deliver humanitarian supplies. Fitzhugh's perspective is the reader's lifeline back to the reality outside of the Sudan and the passions of the characters. Wesley Dare narrates from the perspective of a bush pilot whose altruism is tempered by the desire to make a big score and leave Africa forever. Quinette Harden narrates from the viewpoint of an ordinary American Christian woman who finds herself drawn to the unfolding struggle, particularly in rescuing slaves. She goes with the flow and becomes sucked into an unexpected life like quicksand. Finally, Ibrahim Idris ibn Nur-el-Din presents the Sudanese Arab perspective as he pursues his twin goals of keeping power and regaining his favorite female slave.

The core of the story revolves around a small area in the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan where a tiny medical mission has been tending to those fleeing from the Arab attacks on the black Africans in southern Sudan. The vulnerability of the mission and its patients quickly draws the sympathy of those who are new to the area. But the Sudanese government won't allow aid to reach the mission. The United Nations has a policy of requiring permission to fly in, and won't supply aid because Sudan opposes it. That leaves the desperate people there in need of help. Drawn initially by idealism, some of the bush pilots decide to supply aid. Funding isn't a problem. And the Sudanese government doesn't try very hard to stop the flights.

But as time passes, the needs of those in the Nuba Mountains change and grow. Those who have committed to helping them find themselves tempted to do more . . . than perhaps they should.

The book is filled with little moral challenges and lessons. An ethics teacher could use this book for years to generate interesting moral questions to consider.

Ultimately, though, the book is about peeling back the veneer of who we appear to be . . . to reveal who we really are. The character developments of Quinette Martin and Wesley Dare are masterful. The other characters are developed much less well. That was a disappointment because clearly Mr. Caputo has the skills to do more in this regard. Many of the characters, by comparison, are barely-sketched-in cardboard figures who simply tie the plot together. The problem seems to be that Mr. Caputo prefers to develop his characters through plot rather than by using revealed thoughts and selected background. The exception is Doug Braithwaite where selected background is used to try to reveal a lot, but the effect doesn't quite work as smoothly as it might.

Many will find this book to be ponderous and wish it were shorter. I didn't mind the length, but much of the plot development was predictable which made some parts a little more tedious than they might have been.

But Mr. Caputo is generous in his observations about the mixed nature of good and evil . . . and our tendency to justify ourselves in doing as we please. That's what made this book rewarding for me.
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