Set in the near future, this searing debut focuses on a so-called American terrorist and the government that jails him because it can.
Ben Trinity was once a blameless English professor at a respected university. Born into affluence, he had no use for flashy cars or trashy women, preferring to give his money to those he thought might use it to do good—doctors who disregard borders, for instance. Because some of these borders are in places that make the federal government anxious, Ben begins attracting attention that escalates exponentially when a passenger train is blown up in California, killing 97 people. Through his Iranian-born wife, Ben has been connected to the Jihadist group al-Jawasis. The fact that the connection is tenuous does not prevent Homeland Security—by now the nation’s most powerful, least accountable law enforcement agency—from tossing Ben into a variety of prisons where he’s systematically demeaned, tortured and treated with calculated cruelty for no apparent reason. Paroled and en route to Spokane, Wash., for a government-sanctioned job in which he can be readily spied upon, he’s marooned in a small backwater town rife with provincial narrowness and hostility. But Redemption, Mont., proves aptly named: it’s there that Ben experiences the kindness of strangers and the power of love.
Some may find Jackson’s Orwellian case against big government a bit pat, but his embattled characters are so well-drawn and appealing that empathy carries the day.