“Wool”

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At the book club I attend, we always go around the table and tell what other books we’ve been reading. I usually write down these recommendations and check them out later. One such recommendation was “Wool” by Hugh Howey. I checked it out on Amazon and thought, “What the heck?” I ordered it for my Kindle and I was hooked.

The premise: People on Earth have had to build underground silos in which to live because the air on the surface is toxic. Generations have gone by, and now when someone is convicted of a crime, they’re sent to cleaning. That means they’re suited up to go outside to clean the camera lenses on the sensors on the top of the silo.

No one survives cleaning, and that’s the whole idea. The rest of the folks inside the silo get a clearer picture of what’s happening outside, and they get rid of a troublemaker. Other deaths are treated more kindly: your remains become the mulch in the hydroponic gardens. The circle of life!

When one young woman actually survives cleaning and sets out over the next hill, it provokes an uprising in the silo. There are many uprisings — they become legend and lore in this culture. (She finds another silo where another uprising has killed off everyone. She has to crawl over the bodies to get inside to find oxygen.)

That’s what I love about this series — it moves quickly and every chapter brings another revelation, another turn. No one in the original silo knows that there are other silos except the very limited top echelon of leaders. One of the silo’s leaders decides to take a young man as his shadow/apprentice to learn about the history of the silos because he’s not sure who will survive the uprising.

Those who created the silos apparently knew such things were possible — they have a process manual on what to do in case of earthquake, power outage, and cleaning failure. The young woman who survives does so because her friends have replaced her hazmat suit with one that isn’t designed to fail. How’s that for planned obsolescence?

Thankfully, the young man who has a new mentor is one of the young woman’s friends. Will he survive the uprising and make it to the next silo over the next hill? I know it won’t take long for me to find out. That’s the beauty of this story: it moves quickly and doesn’t waste one’s patience on finding out the next answer.

It also doesn’t insult your intelligence by explaining every single nuance in the story. Of course they have gardens on certain levels. Of course they recycle their water and waste, and of course they have limited access to things such as wood and paper. They don’t have trees, so that makes wooden objects immediate antiques.

And yes, of course, people are going to get wise to one group knowing more than another group. And of course, that’s going to lead to strife and uprisings.

What I wonder is how the Earth’s atmosphere became toxic. Why does everyone assume there’s going to be an apocalypse? Will I see it in my lifetime?

 

“The Winter Boy”

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Author Sally Wiener Grotta takes the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and raises it to the next level. In her post-apocalyptic novel, “The Winter Boy,” a surly teenager will become a refined man whose mission will be to help keep the Peace after the Great Chaos.

But how does one keep the peace when your enemies want nothing more than to kill you? That’s the heart of the question asked by the Alleshi, a group of women who take Blessed Boys and turn them into their knights and charge them with the task of spreading Peace to all. Standing in their way, however, are the Mwertik, who seem to delight in slaughtering anyone in their path.

Ryl is the Winter Boy, an angst-filled young man who has been paired with Rishana to be trained as an Alleman. Rishana is new to the Alleshi, having just completed her training as an Allesha, a mentor who will make a man out of the raw teenager whose father has been gone too much. And yes, sex is used as a tool to civilize the inner caveman of the Blessed Boy.

What neither Ryl nor Rishana know is that they are part of a bigger plan to bring peace to the Valley where the Mwertik have been raiding. The Mwertik slaughtered Rishana’s husband years ago. Can she put aside her hatred to better prepare Ryl? What will it take to reach the Mwertik and teach them of peace?

This novel is a perfect complement to any discussion of peace amidst violence in clashes of different cultures. Many parallels can be derived from the story line: the British coming to America and “civilizing” the Native American; the creation of knights in feudel times to honor a common mission; a single savior sent to a troubled world.

Author Grotta doesn’t give us any simple answers, but instead gives readers a place to start in the discussion of what it will take for world peace.

“The Winter Boy” is available from Pixel Hall Press.

The eBook edition of “The Winter Boy”  is now on preorder sale, at a discount price, on Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other bookstores. Date of publication is Nov. 6.

Grimm End

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Take one part “Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” add a dash of “Grimm” the television show, and stir in a healthy helping of gothic story-telling, and you have “Grimm End,” written by S. T. Cameron of the Fargo-Moorhead area.

What starts out feeling like a gothic horror book becomes a modern-day telling of the adventures of Sara Cross and her family. After her family’s home burns to the ground, Sara, her mother Mary, and brothers Thomas and Daniel go to live with her great grandfather at Grimm End, a scary mansion on the hill outside Shadow Bluff. Scared yet?

Sara and her family no sooner reach Shadow Bluff when other strange things start happening. All is not right in the town where the dead don’t stay dead. And they’re not zombies. They’re just not quite dead. The oldest son, Thomas, is attacked and killed by another creature known as a djinn. And that’s when Sara learns that her great grandfather has access to Pandora’s Box. Yep, that Pandora’s Box which contains all the world’s evils.

Someone is looking for the Box with evil intent. Sara would give it to them if they would just quit targeting her family. She doesn’t know who to trust, and there’s quite a cast of characters: her great grandfather, her great-uncle, a family historian, the butler, the sheriff, and the sheriff’s deputy, as well as two young women who try to take Sara under their wing as a best friend. Her younger brother Daniel has seen some crazy stuff happening, too, but he can’t talk about it because he doesn’t understand it yet.

A fantasy novel with lots of action, “Grimm End” would likely please any middle schooler or high school reader. Adults or purists who would rather not mix fairy tale with Greek mythology might find some story elements jarring. Still, it has just enough suspense and creepiness to keep kids of any age reading.

 

 

 

A House in the Sky

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I can’t imagine how author Amanda Lindhout survived her ordeal in Somalia. Her memoir, “A House in the Sky,” co-written by Sara Corbett, tells how she and a friend Nigel were taken hostage and held for over a year while their captors waited for a big pay-off. The other thing I can’t imagine is how she comes home and creates an educational foundation.

Amanda seems so rootless and restless when we first meet her; she’s hanging out with a boyfriend, but knows she wants to travel because that’s been her dream since buying National Geographic magazines. She’s driven by her wanderlust, and works at all kinds of jobs to save money to travel. You have to give her a lot of credit for having that kind of ambition.

Finally she decides to get some job training as a photographer and journalist. She hopes this new talent can fund her journeys. She takes a few different jobs as a free-lancer, and gets a gig with a news station with an agenda. She doesn’t realize it at first, but then a more experienced journalist gives her the bad news.

Amanda remains optimistic throughout it all. She’s naive and knows it. Her travels take her all over the globe. She has a good reason to be so upbeat; nothing bad has happened except for being mugged one day. The robber takes all her money and rocks her confidence in the world. Still, Amanda wants to travel. She decides on Somalia, because that’s where all the action and danger is. The media will likely buy anything she can bring back.

Nigel and Amanda were once lovers, but they broke up when their jobs took them to opposite ends of the world. They remain friendly, and before Amanda goes to Somalia, she invites Nigel to join her. He was the one who started her interest in photography. Although Nigel has a new girlfriend, he decides to join Amanda on her latest trek.

All is going well. They have bodyguards, they have a “fixer” — someone who arranges their news-gathering trips — and they have a driver. When they arrive, their fixer is actually working for another journalist, while the second string is assigned to Amanda and Nigel. Somewhere along the way, someone sold them out. Someone took a bribe, and Amanda and Nigel are grabbed by armed terrorists.

They’re moved around the country of Somalia, usually staying around Mogadishu. Constantly under guard, their captors keep them just barely alive, feeding them a couple of times a day, and holding out for a $3 million ransom. Amanda’s family certainly doesn’t have that, but Nigel’s family could probably come up with $1 million.

Amanda and Nigel’s story is told from her point of view. She learns what’s going on at home after the fact. Her picture is on the book, so we know she survives, but what does she go through? Yes, she goes through it all — rape, torture, sensory deprivation — but not at first.

At first, the Muslim captors treat her with a certain amount of disdain — she is just a woman, and they were expecting two men journalists. They think that two men would bring a better ransom, either from the governments or the men’s families.

Amanda knows something about being a hostage, and she uses it to her advantage. She makes sure she calls the men by their names, and talks about her family and hopes and dreams. She wants to become more human to the men, rather than a product to be sold to the highest bidder. Her strategy works to some degree.

She expresses interest in their religion and actually converts to Islam. The only book she’s given to read is the Koran. She’s taught by her captors, who turn out to be mostly teenage boys. They call her Sister and give her a new name. Amanda and Nigel are constantly warned that if their ransom isn’t paid, they will be sold to another terrorist group.

In the beginning, Nigel and Amanda are held together. They’re no longer intimate, and their friendship is tested by adversity. Then they’re split up and held in different rooms. Somewhere during their captivity, the rules of the game are changed. One of the leaders rapes Amanda, and keeps raping her until he’s replaced by another captor.

Then Nigel and Amanda try to escape. Amanda makes it into a mosque where she screams and cries and implores the men there to help her. They remain impassive, and then a woman comes to Amanda’s side, and tries to keep her captors from taking her back. She is unsuccessful, and Amanda later wonders what became of that woman. She never finds out.

After that, the captors turn a corner and pull out the heavy stuff. All the boys rape Amanda on a regular basis and she is kept in a dark room where she is not allowed to stand. They don’t want her walking laps to regain any strength. She nearly escaped because of her ability to run.

Here is where the book title comes in. While Amanda is being tortured, she travels in her mind to a house in the sky. She builds rooms where she retreats from the world. She retains her sanity by detaching from her surrroundings. Smart woman.

A person never really knows how they would cope under such circumstances. Amanda and Nigel are ultimately released; their families paid a go-between to negotiate the deal. Amanda undergoes both mental and physical therapies. Her foundation’s goal is to help educate women, and in turn, prevent poverty. Good goals.

I don’t know that I could be so high-minded. This memoir will stick with me; I highly recommend it.

Jo Joe

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Sometimes a book comes along where if you can get past the first two chapters, you’ll be OK. In the case of “Jo Joe,” if you can get past the second paragraph, you’re home free. Don’t overthink it, just keep reading. What threw me is that the protagonist of the story talks about going back to Black Bear, Pennsylvania, and returning to Paris.

I’ll be the spoiler here and let you know: the protagonist, Judith, has lived in Black Bear and Paris, as well as Africa, and she’s coming home to Black Bear to settle the estate of her grandmother. The people of Black Bear haven’t treated her well, so she returns with a huge chip on her shoulder.

Judith’s mother is deceased, her father has remarried, and Judith is staying with her grandparents by default. The only people that she loved and trusted were her grandparents and a boy named Joe. A big beefy guy, Joe takes Judith under his wing and protects her from the school bullies. She needs that protection because Judith isn’t like any other kid in school. She’s black, Jewish and speaks both French and English.

Judith’s initials are J and O, so Joe turns that into a personal nickname for her. Joe is taken into the family since his father is an abusive alcoholic, and Judith’s grandparents see potential in Joe. The two teens are inseparable, until their senior year when Joe suddenly turns against his beloved Jo.

Crushed by his betrayal, Judith vows to leave Black Bear and never come back. She goes to Paris to reconnect with her father, and has a brief career in investments. She follows her heart to Africa where she establishes a foundation for women in poverty.

Judith keeps in touch with her grandparents by mail and phone. They meet her in various places, but she keeps her promise to her grandmother to never return to Black Bear. And then she gets a mysterious message through the foundation that she needs to break her promise and come back to Black Bear because her grandmother is failing.

By the time Judith gets the message and gets back to the United States, however, her grandmother is already gone. Now all that’s left is to clean up the estate, sell everything off, and shake the dust from her shoes. And then she learns from the lawyer that Joe will inherit a sizeable chunk of the estate. In addition, his name appears on Grandma’s checks.

Judith hires a lawyer to contest the will, and he in turn, hires a private investigator to find out how Joe weaseled his way back into the good grandmother’s graces. But first Judith has to face her tormentors at the funeral.

Author Sally Wiener Grotta understands what it’s like to grow up in a small town, where everyone knows your business and doesn’t hesitate to gossip with others about it. Thankfully, she knows that people can either embrace those quirks or reject them. People also have the ability to learn and grow.

Spooky tales for Halloween

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People who know say that Haven takes care of its own. And in “Seven From Haven” we learn in seven short stories how the community of Haven helps its residents and anyone else who may wander in.

This is not a book version of SyFy channel’s “Haven,” although both are centered around a community named Haven.  This book is actually seven short stories written by Daniel Grotta, who wrote a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, “Architect of Middle Earth.”

“Seven From Haven” is a kinder, gentler version of some spooky tales that would be perfect for reading at an all-ages Halloween gathering. There are no grisly descriptions of beheadings or blood-washed scenes of zombies feeding on humans. Instead it’s more like The Twilight Zone — stories that made goose bumps crawl up your arms or made you think twice about strange things that happen.

These are stories with a heart. We can feel the grief of the man whose father dies unexpectedly, we can suppress our laughter at stupid crooks with their hapless hostage, and we can feel the wonder of a new father who assists at the delivery of his baby.

In most of the stories, the reader might guess what’s going to happen, but it doesn’t dampen the satisfaction of a good ending.

“Seven From Haven” is available in both hard copy and e-book from Amazon.com.

 

 

 

“Letting the Cat Out…”

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It’s been said that with certain stories, you had to be there to really appreciate the humor in the situation. Author Noel Mohberg grew up in southeastern North Dakota, and knows all about the Norwegian culture and makes the most of it in “Letting the Cat Out of the Bag is the SECOND Step.”

Yes, that’s an awfully long title for a book, but it’s likely a sequel to “Once You’ve Skinned the Cat, What Do You Do with the Pelt?” He says his second book is a collection of short stories, but I disagree — it’s a full-fledged book with a simple plot: two friends are out ice fishing and telling stories.

John isn’t sure why he’s been invited along on Henning’s ice fishing excursion, and then Henning tells him: John saved his life once. But that’s not the main point of the story. No, the main point is basically Henning telling about his hapless existence, beginning when he was a boy with an abusive father.

Back then his father wouldn’t have been identified as abusive, but “tough.” Henning resorted to blaming his brother to escape beatings now and then, and Henning’s brother could be considered a bully, too. (And these days we know why the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

Those painful memories aside, Henning has some stories that are sure to spur a recollection in someone of that era. If you don’t remember coming out of a theater on a Saturday in December with a bag of popcorn, candy and an apple, you might as well put the book back on the shelf.

Mohberg himself cautions the reader that if they don’t get the humor to close the book and find something else to read. Some of the chapters in the novel beg to be read aloud. That might be the only way you’ll catch some of the humor. (Barstuhl, North Dakota? OK, barstool.)

Henning talks about the farm chores — milking the cows, catching the cows that have wandered from their pasture, putting chores before school. In the chapter that is the inspiration for the title, Henning and his father take burlap bags to their neighbor’s farm to collect near-feral cats to take home to their barn to keep the rat population down.

The description of putting the cats into the bags is laugh-out-loud funny. Someone with pampered kitties might not find it so amusing, but I’m a dog person. I loved it. And I also understand how someone growing up on a farm never gets too attached to an animal, because it might be supper someday.

Henning has one adventure after another. He receives a special rope for Christmas and practices roping with the dream of someday competing in a local rodeo. Not too many people enter the roping contest, so he figures he can win a prize even at last place. And then the rope breaks.

Henning rides his horse across a neighbor’s field while he’s hunting. Instead of the prey he’s hoping to find, Henning is sprayed in the face by a skunk. Mohberg describes the pain and despair with such accuracy, you have to wonder if it didn’t happen to him.

Henning falls off his horse and is forced to take refuge in the haystack. The horse wanders off, leaving Henning alone with his thoughts. Will his remains be found next spring when his neighbor feeds the hay to his cattle? Or will his family find his carcass as a frozen parcel after the snowstorm?

Henning and his fishing partner John have a parallel problem. Their four-wheeler has sunk into the lake, their phone batteries have died, and without GPS, the men will never find their way from the fish house on the lake to the resort. Will someone find them before the fish house sinks, too? Or will their carcasses wash up on a shore somewhere?

“Letting the Cat Out of the Bag is the SECOND Step” is available from Amazon.com.

 

What I’ve been reading

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At each book club meeting, we usually wind up the discussion with other books we’ve read and can recommend. I’m so bad about this — I don’t always remember what I’ve read. I have to look at my Kindle to refresh my memory. But not all the books I read are ON my Kindle. So, to keep my sanity, I’m going to blog about EVERY book I read — not just the ones by local authors.

I’ve already finished the book for book club, “Reconstructing Amelia,” by Kimberly McCreight. Just published in April, I can see why it’s getting good reviews. A teenage girl apparently kills herself by throwing herself off the roof of the private school she attends.

Her mother is clueless about why her daughter would do such a thing, and then she starts getting mysterious texts telling her that her daughter didn’t jump. Will she be able to reconstruct what was going through Amelia’s mind, what was going on in her life?

Compelling reading with a few good mysteries, this book kept me awake a couple of nights. I had a couple of the mysteries figured out before the end, but I was surprised by the actual events.

Before that, I read “Inferno,” the latest suspense novel by Dan Brown. I love how Brown weaves together fact and fiction. It’s hard to describe the story line in just a few sentences, but I’ll do my best. A group of people are trying to curb the world’s population by introducing a new plague, and Brown’s Professor Robert Langdon has to use Dante’s “Inferno” to decode the clues they’ve left to reach the biological weapon.

Brown has perfected the taut plotting of a suspense novel, but I felt like “Inferno” flagged a little in the middle. I was ready to put it down and go to another book, and that rarely happens with a Dan Brown book. I’m glad I stuck it out, because the ending was nothing like I’d expected. It has some wonderful twists that the reader will never see coming.

Before that, I’d gone to the library and found a book by one of my favorite authors, Gail Godwin. Maybe I just like her name. No, I like her writing, too. “Flora” is about a young woman who comes to stay with a girl whose father is away helping the war effort during World War II.

It’s hard to tell who learns more, Flora or her 10-year-old charge, Helen. Helen’s had a strange life so far. Her mother died when she was very young, and her grandmother has been raising her. Now the grandmother is gone, too, so Flora, who has also had an untraditional upbringing, must fill the void.

Helen is a remarkable child, because she’s old in different ways. Her father is an alcoholic and her grandmother was a curmudgeon. The grand old house they live in was once a recuperation home, but now Flora and Helen must isolate themselves to avoid a polio outbreak.

I especially enjoyed Helen’s imagination. She served as an entire classroom of students so that Flora could “practice teach” in preparation for her real job that fall. Helen is predictably self-centered, since she’s been alone so much, and Flora is a bit of a ding-a-ling, but they make the summer fly by.

And speaking of the summer flying by, what happened to our summer?

 

 

“American Gods”

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I would have never picked up “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman had it not been for the ladies of the book club I attend. And to them I say, “Thank you.”

This book defies classification. I haven’t read anything else by Gaiman, so I don’t know if he normally fits into science fiction or fantasy, but that’s as close a genre as I can come up with for “American Gods.”

On the surface, it’s about a young man named Shadow who has been released from prison. On the day he’s released, he learns from the warden that his wife has been killed in a car accident. And then he finds out that his wife was having an affair with another man, and was with him when the car crashed.

So Shadow agrees to work for a strange character who goes by the name of Wednesday. They have several adventures and travels together — and from what I can piece together, Wednesday is trying to get all the old gods together to fight the new gods.

Author Gaiman takes names from established mythology and other cultures and mixes them generously. Some of the names I have heard before: Odin, Loki. But more of them are mysteries. It’s a little like the TV show, “Grimm,” meets “The X Files” meets “Highway to Heaven.”

Gaiman mixes everyday scenes with Shadow’s dreams, and the combination is strangely compelling. Shadow’s wife Laura comes back to him after he tosses a magic coin in her grave. When he sees her next, she is wearing it around her neck. The only problem is: she is still decaying, even though she appears to Shadow. And she would like to live again, if Shadow has any pull with the gods.

The gods have strange new names and some of them occupy different forms or bodies. Laura helps Shadow escape from a couple of the new gods who want Shadow to come to their side. Mr. Nancy is actually Anansi, and Low-Key is actually Loki. Other gods have names such as Stone, Town, and World.

And then there’s the obvious Christ-like images in the novel: Shadow dies hanging from a tree. His mother becomes pregnancy with him when she’s seduced by Mr. Wednesday. (He learns this much later in the novel.)

And the version of the novel I’m reading is the 10th anniversary author’s version. I can only guess what the originally published version was like. I’m confident it was much shorter. But better? Who knows?

I just know I’m going to have a sleepless night when I get down to the end of this book. I’m not going to be able to put it down until I find out what happens and who wins the big battle.

 

A Change in the Last Time They Met

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Author Anita Shreve is one of my favorite authors (I know; I say that about a lot of authors…) and I recently bought “A Change in Altitude.” I’d just finished reading “The Last Time They Met.” My daughter would not be happy reading any of her books. That’s because they have open endings.

Open endings are just that — endings that are not all wrapped in nice little packages with all the loose ends tied up. Nope, I had to reread the ending of “The Last Time They Met” in order to decide how I thought it would end. Shreve does give some hints as to how the story would resolve itself — I just had to look for it. The ending of “A Change in Altitude” was a little more straightforward, or maybe I was just anticipating the ending or lack thereof.

Books with open endings are fun to discuss at book club, too. Each woman has her own idea of what happened or would happen if the book were given a sequel.

Shreve must have an exciting imaginary life — she includes peripheral characters from one story in the next book. I had to look twice to confirm it. Some of the characters in “The Weight of Water” show up in “A Change in Altitude.” It almost makes me wonder if some of those characters or bits of plot are biographical. She must have visited Africa at some point, and either knew someone or climbed Mount Kenya herself. Fascinating in either case.

So now I’ll tell you how I think the books ended.

In “The Last Time They Met,” the two main characters are perfect for one another. The whole story is told in backwards chronological order. It starts out with Thomas and Linda meeting at a workshop where both are presenting. Both are writers and both are single again. They rediscover each other, and realize their love is still as strong as ever.

Flash back 20-some years – both of them are living in Africa and have a brief affair. Flash back again and the two are high school classmates, in love for the first time. Thomas is driving drunk and they have a car accident; Linda is injured, Thomas is scarred, and they are basically kept apart by their families.

And now back to the present: Linda has children who depend on her, and has a life apart from him.  Thomas realizes that he’s missed a lifetime of loving Linda, and is so grief-stricken that he kills himself. Grim, I know, but that’s what I gleaned from reading between the lines.

In “A Change of Altitude,” the main female character has followed her doctor-husband to Africa where he announces that they are going to climb Mount Kenya with two other couples. Margaret and Patrick have a good enough marriage, but Patrick treats her a little condescendingly. She doesn’t know the one couple on the climb, and they rent their house from the other couple.

On the climb, Margaret is consistently last — struggling to keep up and prompting Patrick to get testy with her. Meanwhile, Diana and Arthur, the couple they rent from, ignore some of the safety rules. Diana is an overachiever — she wants to be first in line and get moving at all costs. Ultimately it costs her her life. Halfway across a glacier, she is so driven to get ahead that she unclips herself from the safety line and then loses her balance and slides into a crevasse.

The climbers abandon their goal and return home. Margaret and Patrick’s marriage has changed. Patrick blames Margaret for Diana’s rage because during the night, Diana’s husband kept Margaret from freaking out about the rats climbing over them by holding her hand. Really. When they awoke, Arthur and Margaret were still holding hands. Arthur had been flirting with Margaret, but it was all harmless. Apparently holding hands was the last straw.

Margaret and Patrick are forced to move, and finding safe housing in Nairobi is apparently difficult. They’ve been burglarized a number of times. Margaret is a photographer, so she gets a free-lance job with a newspaper. Too bad it’s a newspaper with a bad reputation for telling the truth in a regime that would rather spin or withhold the truth from the public.

At the newspaper, Margaret falls in love with one of the writers — a man with a global background. The love connection is hardly acknowledged in the story, because Margaret is supposed to be a happily married woman. But their connection to one another finally comes to a head when Rafik visits Margaret in the hospital. She has miscarried a baby without having known she was pregnant.

Rafik is the honorable type, and asks not to be paired with Margaret on any future stories. Margaret is clinically depressed after her hospitalization, and Patrick chalks it up to the miscarriage, not the end of her love affair that wasn’t. Rafik and the editor of the newspaper are both arrested — Rafik is deported to London, the editor imprisoned — for trying to investigate the murder of  college students who were buried in a mass grave. Margaret gets to see Rafik one more time as he is escorted by police at the airport. He quietly signals to her not to intervene.

Patrick does what he thinks is best for Margaret, and tries to interest her in other things. They become friends with another couple, and Patrick suggests they climb Mount Kenya. He blames their earlier failure at not being properly acclimated to climb. They don’t tell the other couple what happened on their first climb until they are halfway up the mountain.

This couple is more sympathetic about the tragedy, but before they can continue, they all fall ill with altitude sickness. Except Margaret. She has confided in one of the guides about her earlier attempt, and he urges her to complete the climb — right now. The two gear up and make the final ascent. Her guide tells her that the mountain god will no longer bother her. Margaret thinks about how she’ll tell Rafik about the climb.

That tells me that her love affair with Rafik will continue. I don’t know if she and Patrick divorce, but it’s clear to me that Margaret will find Rafik someday somehow.

And if you read the books, let me know how you think they end.