The unremarkable record of a college dean's six-and-a-half years as a hostage of the Islamic Jihad in Beirut. Husband and wife Tom and Jean Sutherland, he the dean of agriculture and she an English teacher at the American University of Beirut, have turned Tom's 2,354-day hostage ordeal into a book to be read at your own risk. Tom is no Terry Anderson or Terry Waite (his longtime roommates in captivity), and At Your Own Risk offers neither the human nor the religious and political insights to compete with the more eloquent books covering the identical experience. The Sutherlands' suffering is real enough, but they come off as cool, petty, and humorless. They don't explain why Tom ignored warnings from the US government and accepted an administrative post at a campus in a virtual war zone, crawling with members of several Palestinian guerrilla groups with whom he seems at times to sympathize. But the dean is even a mediocre anti- imperialist. Deep in captivity, when we seek his profound ruminations about life, freedom, love, and war, we learn that Sutherland preferred the enhanced salary and prestige that American University offered over Colorado State University. In captivity, he is ``terribly worried about the impact of this whole thing on my career.'' While Jean is tirelessly meeting with government officials and attending yellow-ribbon-tying ceremonies for Tom, he is bemoaning his inferior chess game and his inability to read as well as Terry Anderson. The boredom is breached when the hostages get a radio, and there is a rare moment of emotion when Sutherland hears a birthday greeting from his family. Hungrier for attention than an Oprah guest, the finally freed Sutherland gushes, ``What an ovation! . . . it made up for all those years.'' Readers are likely to be embarrassed by the closing crescendo of self-congratulation.
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