U.S. Foreign Service veteran Tucker (Innocents Return Abroad, 2012) offers a collection of nine short, autobiographical stories.
These tales about life abroad offer colorful descriptions of faraway lands as seen through the lens of an American diplomat. But the author, ever the careful observer, proves to be most interested in the fascinating characters he met in these locales. In taut prose, he describes his colleagues, their inner worlds, their torments, and their domestic strife to reveal the layered complexity of their lives. In each far-flung post, he encountered people who intrigued him, including women whose self-contradictions and persuasive magnetism exercised a magical yet dangerous allure. In El Salvador, for example, he encountered the decisive and talkative Rosa Marina Baxter, the wife of a hapless expatriate American and a sharp poker player: “Her large, pale blue eyes were a little tired; her face was slightly lined but finely featured; her mouth smiled easily and often made a pout-like expression that suggested a sense of tolerant irony.” Whether he was in Central America, Australia, the Caucasus, or stateside in Washington, D.C., Tucker often found himself trying to sort out the relationships and motivations of women. However, the author reveals little in this book about his own relationships with them, although he does write of his attempt to attract a blonde at North Camp, a Middle Eastern post that was otherwise dominated by men. But instead of wooing her, he engaged her and another male colleague in an all-night card game. Sadly, some textual errors mar these tales: triple-quote marks litter the text and copy editing issues (“alright” for “all right”; “lay” for “lie”) also detract.
A finely wrought compilation, despite its occasional flaws.