Saturday, October 31, 2015

And West Is West

This excellent, fast-paced novel, which won the Barbara Kingsolver Pen Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, tells its larger story of government and financial corruption through engaging, unique characters. In this twisty tale, the reader experiences how easy it is for a moral individual to become a cog in a corrupt organization's schemes. And how quickly that same individual can become a victim the Powerful want to destroy.

The main characters are Ethan, a "quant" who writes software to make billions for his Wall Street firm without adding any value to society, and Jessica, a US Army sergeant who remotely pilots war drones that drop bombs on Somalia. The book moves back and forth between their stories, all the while maintaining your fascination with both. Wall Street and the US Army drone program would be interesting enough settings on their own, but the plots expand to include the international art world, the US prison system, the Nevada desert, a dysfunctional wealthy family, an aging hippy couple, and more. The author navigates these diverse worlds with ease. Each character, place and situation is believable, interesting, and memorable.

I highly recommend this superbly written book. At little more than 300 pages, it's a swift, engrossing read that leaves you thinking about the real issue that faces us all: if an individual can't change a corrupt system, how do they live a moral life?

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