In her debut novel, Fallon (You Know When the Men Are Gone, 2011) takes the Army wives who were the subject of her previous short story collection and moves them overseas, where political unrest is fomenting in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Cass Hugo and her husband, Dan, have been at the U.S. Embassy in Jordan for two years when Dan signs them up to sponsor a new family: Margaret and Crick Brickshaw and their baby, Mather. Cass is a portrait of bitterness; her lack of success conceiving a child has not only strained her marriage, but convinced her that she's disqualified from making friends with the other embassy wives. So though Cass resents the sponsorship and seems to dislike Margaret, she's determined to be the new woman's friend, at least partly because she thinks the sometimes disconcertingly naïve Margaret needs her experienced guidance. But as they get to know each other, what emerges between them is a philosophical divide about their roles as foreigners and their responsibilities as military spouses. Where Cass follows the embassy’s rules of conduct to the letter and is happiest replicating American experiences, Margaret behaves more instinctively, engaging with the culture and people around her as she sees fit. The fissures in their friendship widen, and Cass is trying to make amends when Margaret goes missing. As Cass watches Mather and waits for news, she finds Margaret’s journal and discovers not only the extent of their differences, but her own possible role in her friend's disappearance. For all that these women appear designed for a morality play, they are honest and well-formed characters, and Fallon strenuously avoids pat answers to the central question of how a woman should behave in a foreign land.
Page-turning and rich in detail, this is a solid, insightful debut.