Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Acts of Faith, by Philip Caputo (Knopf; $26.95). Nothing is omitted in this ambitious novel depicting the turbulent lives of several aid workers at the height of the Sudanese civil war. Caputo, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of a Vietnam memoir, includes more characters, plot lines, and big ideas than a single mind can track, but he writes so authoritatively that it doesn't matter. In the course of nearly seven hundred pages, he encompasses military offensives, the slave trade, arms-running operations, passionate romances, religious conversions, childhood memories, and rampant corruption, in a portrait of a place where "God and the Devil are one and the same." Caputo lays the groundwork of the novel carefully, introducing his disparate cast of characters; then, as the various plot lines come together, the book picks up speed. Caputo may have set out to write an epic parable about the dangers of uncritical belief, but he ended up with, quite simply, a great story.

Evidence of Love, by Melissa McConnell (Harcourt; $14). When Catherine's fiance, a special adviser to the President, disappears, leaving only a brief note, we are left to ponder his motives: is it loyalty to the government that makes him abandon Catherine (a speechwriter for the Vice-President) or is it that the fault lines in their relationship have been showing ever since they moved to Washington? McConnell's recounting of Catherine's attempt to start her life anew is smooth and self-assured, but the characters remain guarded and at some level impenetrable, as if they were being protected by the Secret Service personnel who populate these pages. …

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