Prusher’s glimpse at the journalist/fixer relationship in embattled Iraq in 2003 offers an intimate view of how news is collected, reported and, sometimes, slanted.
The random shooting of an Iraqi woman in war-torn Baghdad brings together Nabil al-Amari, an English teacher, and Samara "Sam" Katchens, an American journalist camped out at the Hamra Hotel with dozens of other foreign reporters, relentlessly trolling for fresh, new stories. Nabil is fascinated by Sam’s fiery hair, brassy attitude and casual dress, all very different from the women in his country. When Sam offers him a job that pays well in a country with little opportunity, Nabil agrees to work as her “fixer”—someone who translates, solves problems, and assists foreign reporters and photographers. At first, Nabil isn’t quite sure what to think of Sam; her contempt for American soldiers and simulated empathy when she’s after a story confuse him. Then they’re pulled off reporting war-related stories to investigate a piece by a famous writer that impugns an important African-American politician who opposes the war. During their investigation, Nabil finds himself drawn to Sam, but soon her recklessness endangers her, himself and everyone he loves. Prusher’s spot-on descriptions of both the craft of reporting and the Iraqi landscape during that volatile time make this novel memorable and informative. But, though the author’s writing is strong, she weakens her work by including pages and pages of inconsequential details that result in a thriller that doesn’t really “thrill” until it approaches the 400-page–plus mark. Still, for a glimpse of life under the American occupation of Iraq, few could come close to Prusher’s portrait.
A really good book that would have benefited from judicious pruning.