Haunted by a Saddam Hussein henchman's coldblooded execution of a young Shiite girl, British war reporter Thomas Benton and ex–GI Arwood Hobbes reunite in Iraq 22 years later to investigate the unlikely possibility that she is alive.
The unlikely duo first meet in 1991, during the uneasy cease-fire following the first Gulf War. The 22-year-old Hobbes is on patrol at Checkpoint Zulu, 150 miles from the Kuwaiti border. Benton is on the prowl for unsanctioned information about ongoing conflicts. During an attempt to rescue Benton from a dangerous situation in a nearby town, the fearless (and feckless) Hobbes spots a frightened girl in a green dress and tries to get her out of harm's way as well. But a Baathist colonel, with Hobbes' gun pointed at his head—and in full view of U.S. soldiers—shoots her in the back. After beating up a lieutenant who berates him for daring to get involved in local matters, Hobbes is sent home without honor. Benton returns to an unhappy home life in England following a meaningful one-night fling with Märta, a sexy and stoic Swedish relief worker. In 2013, out of the blue, Hobbes invites the now-63-year-old reporter to join him in Kurdistan, convinced he saw their girl in green on Al Jazeera escaping a mortar attack. Her existence, or lack thereof, speaks to the fact that everything has changed in Iraq, and nothing has changed. The new emerging threat is ISIS, but the same grudge fights are being fought, scores of innocents are still on the run, and Westerners like our heroes are still getting abducted. As in his acclaimed debut, Norwegian by Night (2013), Miller brilliantly blends offbeat reflection and dark emotion, using pop-culture references ranging from Ferris Bueller to Winnie the Pooh to underscore the killing ironies of war.
A penetrating, poetic, and unexpectedly disarming book about the ageless conflict in the Middle East by a writer who has made that topic his specialty.