Always-on-the-run journalist thrill-seeker is finally forced to deal with the consequences of the horrors she loves to report.
The heroine of Ward's powerful and fast-paced novel (How to Be Lost, 2004, etc.) isn't anybody's idea of a nice girl. Edging into her mid-30s, Nadine is a hotshot newspaper stringer who's always been better at escaping than living, dashing off to whatever foreign land is hosting the most saleable atrocities while ignoring family and friends. As the story begins, Nadine has just barely escaped being killed by drug traffickers in Mexico and is recuperating in her father’s bed-and-breakfast in the “small and strange” Cape Cod fishing village of her childhood, “now populated by drunks and scientists.” Another big story is brewing, and barely functioning Nadine is hungry to get away, this time back to South Africa, where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is taking testimony from victims of Apartheid violence. There is a local connection—a white boy from Nadine's town who moved to one of the townships to teach was killed by a mob of blacks chanting “one settler, one bullet”—and a personal one: Nadine once lived there, and when she left, to pursue yet another story, she left behind the love of her life. Nadine's bratty and selfish behavior is on full display (in fits of adolescent pique, she tries to impress her sad and widowed father and spurned once-best friend with her worldliness) and there are flashbacks to her earlier South African sojourn, as well as episodes from the journal of the murdered boy. The flashbacks encompass an impressive amount of the country's history and cataclysmic violence; the journal episodes, meanwhile, are a distraction, the rare wrong note in a tightly constructed and oddly romantic novel.
An acute, sharp-angled love story with a rare sense of history.