Kat Warren-Bineki didn't join the National Guard to see the world. She joined to escape the rusty tentacles of Warrenside, a depressed steel town—and to avoid her mother.
But Kat cannot elude Warrenside's woes even in Afghanistan. Her closest friend, Duck Wolinsky, also enlisted. Duck intends to marry Kat even if she isn't entirely convinced. Other locals include Jenna Magee, a proselytizing Christian not averse to occasional casual sex. Then there's the rough-and-tumble Reuber and Camacho. Most importantly, there's Max Asad, only son of Dr. Edward Asad, a cultured Lebanese immigrant and owner of most of Warrenside's downtown, including the Lucky Lady, a strip club where his Korean mistress lives. A loner at home, Max was also isolated in Afghanistan, shanghaied to serve as Special Ops interpreter while other Warrensiders worked in the rear echelon and partied. As the unit travels home, Max and Kat fall in love—a troubling situation since Kat is the scion of the founding family and Max has a traditional arranged marriage awaiting him. Then the Catawissa River bursts its banks, flooding Warrenside's downtown, and the Guard unit is activated again. Monk's debut novel follows different characters with each chapter, including Duck, obsessed with marriage to Kat; Barbara Warren-Bineki, Kat's mother, coping with "chemicals" that sometimes cause her to strip nude and walk Warrenside's neighborhoods; Mike, Kat's father, whose heritage barred entry into old-money society, which spurred an embezzlement caper; Wind Storm, a half-Swedish Lenape Indian, a love shaman, which adds a dash of magic realism to the saga; and Houda, the Asad's daughter, possessing the tough-minded acumen and ambition he wants in a son. The flood destroys old Warrenside, the Asads have a chance to demolish the ruins and build a casino, but the good fortune (Asad means lucky in Arabic) comes at a cruel price.
An allegory of old society confronting a new world, and a rollicking good read.