Though sometimes tangential, Levin’s narrative ably depicts the complex interactions of Middle Eastern politics.



Anecdotal account of an effort to find a missing young man in civil war–riven Syria.

Levin, a lawyer and armed-conflict negotiator who has vast experience with the Middle East, delivers “a story about loss and sadness, about violence and death, about unspeakable cruelty and greed—the daily menu of Syria’s devastating war.” More than that, he reveals the complex grammar of quid pro quo that is required for any negotiation in the region. At stake was the son of an influential American, and tracking him down fell to Levin, who had been involved in a project to nurture young Syrians to take roles in a postwar government. Via that connection, he was often approached to help find missing persons with the assumption that he “might know someone who knew someone who knew someone who could help. The classic Levantine arrangement, in other words.” Finding that chain of someones involved visits to several countries and encounters with a range of characters, from a smooth, charming interlocutor who was quite helpful to a variety of gangsters and strongmen. Levin didn’t find the hoped-for answer to the question of the young man’s disappearance, but he did help effect an unforeseen rescue that, one hopes, will one day change the shape of regional politics. Despite some unnecessary digressions—e.g., the author’s story of his visit to a wealthy racist in the Virginia countryside, one with clear political clout himself, doesn’t add to the primary narrative—every moment that features the fixer named Khalid is worth the price of admission. Although Khalid has plenty of shady connections with the rich and powerful on all sides of the region’s rivalries, he also serves as one of the book’s much-needed moral compasses: “I’m really sorry, Khalid. I have no choice,” Levin protests of a meeting that conflicts with his schedule, to which Khalid replies, “we always have a choice.”

Though sometimes tangential, Levin’s narrative ably depicts the complex interactions of Middle Eastern politics.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64375-098-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Consistently illuminating, unabashedly ferocious writing.


An acclaimed nonfiction writer gathers essays embracing the pleasure, pain, and power of growing up as a girl and woman.

In her latest powerful personal and cultural examination, Febos interrogates the complexities of feminism and the "darkness" that has defined much of her life and career. In "Kettle Holes," she describes how experiences of humiliation at the hands of a boy she loved helped shape some of the pleasure she later found working as a dominatrix (an experience she vividly recounted in her 2010 book, Whip Smart). As she fearlessly plumbed the depths of her precocious sexuality in private, she watched in dismay as patriarchal society transformed her into a "passive thing.” In "Wild America," the author delves into body-shaming issues, recounting how, during adolescence, self-hatred manifested as a desire to physically erase herself and her "gigantic" hands. Only later, in the love she found with a lesbian partner, did she finally appreciate the pleasure her hands could give her and others. Febos goes on to explore the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships in "Thesmophoria,” writing about the suffering she brought to her mother through lies and omissions about clandestine—and sometimes dangerous—sexual experiments and youthful flirtations with crystal meth and heroin. Their relationship was based on the "ritual violence" that informed the Persephone/Demeter dyad, in which the daughter alternately brought both pain and joy to her mother. "Intrusions" considers how patriarchy transforms violence against women into narratives of courtship that pervert the meaning of love. In "Thank You for Taking Care of Yourself," Febos memorably demonstrates how the simple act of platonic touching can be transformed into a psychosexual minefield for women. Profound and gloriously provocative, this book—a perfect follow-up to her equally visceral previous memoir, Abandon Me (2017)—transforms the wounds and scars of lived female experience into an occasion for self-understanding that is both honest and lyrical.

Consistently illuminating, unabashedly ferocious writing.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-252-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Readers would do well to heed the dark warning that this book conveys.


The nameless resister inside the White House speaks.

“The character of one man has widened the chasms of American political division,” writes Anonymous. Indeed. The Trump years will not be remembered well—not by voters, not by history since the man in charge “couldn’t focus on governing, and he was prone to abuses of power, from ill-conceived schemes to punish his political rivals to a propensity for undermining vital American institutions.” Given all that, writes the author, and given Trump’s bizarre behavior and well-known grudges—e.g., he ordered that federal flags be raised to full staff only a day after John McCain died, an act that insiders warned him would be construed as petty—it was only patriotic to try to save the country from the man even as the resistance movement within the West Wing simultaneously tried to save Trump’s presidency. However, that they tried did not mean they succeeded: The warning of the title consists in large part of an extended observation that Trump has removed the very people most capable of guiding him to correct action, and the “reasonable professionals” are becoming ever fewer in the absence of John Kelly and others. So unwilling are those professionals to taint their reputations by serving Trump, in fact, that many critical government posts are filled by “acting” secretaries, directors, and so forth. And those insiders abetting Trump are shrinking in number even as Trump stumbles from point to point, declaring victory over the Islamic State group (“People are going to fucking die because of this,” said one top aide) and denouncing the legitimacy of the process that is now grinding toward impeachment. However, writes the author, removal from office is not the answer, not least because Trump may not leave without trying to stir up a civil war. Voting him out is the only solution, writes Anonymous; meanwhile, we’re stuck with a president whose acts, by the resisters’ reckoning, are equal parts stupid, illegal, or impossible to enact.

Readers would do well to heed the dark warning that this book conveys.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1846-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

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