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Acts of Faith: A Novelby Philip Caputo
Synopses & Reviews
Thirty years ago, Pulitzer Prize?winning author and journalist Philip Caputo crossed the deserts of Sudan and Eritrea on foot and camelback, a journey that inspired his first novel, Horn of Africa, and awakened a lifelong fascination with Africa. His travels have since taken him back to Sudan, as well as to Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania, and from those experiences he has fashioned Acts of Faith, his most ambitious novel. A stunning and timely epic, it tells the stories of pilots, aid workers, missionaries, and renegades struggling to relieve the misery wrought by the civil war in Sudan.
The hearts of these men and women are in the right place, but as they plunge into a well of moral corruption for which they are ill-prepared, their hidden flaws conspire with circumstances to turn their strengths — bravery, compassion, daring, and empathy — into weaknesses. In pursuit of noble ends, they make ethical compromises; their altruism curdles into self-righteous zealotry and greed, entangling them in a web of conspiracies that leads, finally, to murder. A few, however, escape the moral trap and find redemption in the discovery that firm convictions can blind the best-intentioned man or woman to the difference between right and wrong.
Douglas Braithwaite, an American aviator who flies food and medicine to Sudan's ravaged south, is torn between his altruism and powerful personal ambitions. His partners are Fitzhugh Martin, a multiracial Kenyan who sees Sudan as a cause that can give purpose to his directionless life, and Wesley Dare, a hard-bitten bush pilot who is not as cynical as he thinks he is and sacrifices all for the woman he loves.
They are joined by two strong women: Quinette Hardin, an evangelical Christian from Iowa who liberates slaves captured by Arab raiders and who falls in love with a Sudanese rebel; and Diana Briggs, the daughter of a family with colonial roots in Africa, who believes that her love for her adopted continent might be enough to save it.
Pitted against them is Ibrahim Idris ibn Nur-el-Din, a fierce Arab warlord whose obsessive quest for an escaped concubine undermines his faith in the holy war he is waging against Sudan's southern blacks.
In a harsh yet alluring landscape, these and other vividly realized characters act out a drama of modern-day Africa. Grounded in the reality of today's headlines, Acts of Faith is a captivating novel of human complexity that combines seriousness with all the seductive pleasure of a masterly thriller.
"Caputo's ambitious adventure novel, set against a backdrop of the Sudanese wars, makes for a dense, riveting update on Graham Greene's The Quiet American. The American in this case is Douglas Braithwaite, a 'mercenary with a conscience' who founds Knight Air, a charter airline that conveys relief supplies from NGOs to war-torn southern Sudan. Braithwaite launches his service by flying aid to the Nuba, a region in the northern Sudanese sphere of influence that is a no-go zone for U.N.-sponsored airlines. He hires Fitzhugh Martin, a former soccer star and mixed-race Kenyan from the Seychelles Islands, as his operations manager, and soon teams up with Texan bush pilot Wes Dare as well as a shady Somali financier. From Fitzhugh's perspective, we see corruption ensue from Douglas's decision to expand his air service — crushing his competitor, Tara Whitcomb, in the process — and to smuggle arms to Michael Goraende, the Nuban militia head. Douglas's support for the Nuban commander also brings Quinette Hardin, a Christian aid worker from Iowa who marries Goreande, into Knight Air's orbit. Caputo presents a sharply observed, sweeping portrait, capturing the incestuous world of the aid groups, Sudan's multiethnic mix and the decayed milieu of Kenyan society. Though this long atmospheric novel offers a very slow build and doesn't always avoid formula, the understated climax that leads to Knight Air's demise is powerful in its impact. Agent, Aaron Priest. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Caputo's devastating new novel...will be to the era of the Iraq war what Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American became to the Vietnam era." Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times
"Acts of Faith offers an image of Africa deserving comparison with Conrad, Hemingway, Peter Matthiessen, and Jan de Hartog's forgotten near-masterpiece The Spiral Road." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"This is a big novel, old fashioned in the best way, full of intrigue and a large cast of sharply drawn characters. And with a Sudan cease-fire recently in the news, it couldn't be timelier." Booklist
"Philip Caputo, from Vietnam onwards, has understood the hardest truths of the modern world better than almost anybody. Acts of Faith is a stunningly unflinching novel. On the surface it is set in Africa, but in fact its true landscape is the ravaged soul of the twenty-first century. Philip Caputo is one of the few absolutely essential writers at work today." Robert Olen Butler
"In Acts of Faith Philip Caputo has fashioned a gripping cast of characters and placed them in a spellbinding story. You can't get any better than that." Winston Groom
From the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, author of the highly praised novels The Voyage and Horn of Africa — a stunning, timely new novel about the physical perils and moral crises faced by a group of men and women who try to relieve the suffering caused by war and famine in contemporary Sudan.
Douglas Braithwaite, an American aviator who flies medicine and food from Kenya to Sudan's ravaged south, feels himself beginning to take sides in the conflict. Flying with him: Wesley Dare, a hard-bitten bush pilot who sacrifices all for the woman he loves; Fitzhugh Martin, a multiracial Kenyan who sees Sudan as a cause with which he can rejuvenate his directionless life; Quinette Hardin, an evangelical Christian from Iowa working to buy slaves back from the Arab raiders, who falls in love with a Sudanese rebel; Diana Briggs, a daughter of a family with colonial roots in Africa, who believes that her love for her adopted continent might be enough to save it.
These and the other vividly realized characters who populate the blasted landscape of this riveting novel are unwitting combatants in the classic confrontation between Westerners and the third world. As they plunge into a well of moral corruption for which they are ill prepared, we see how their hidden flaws conspire with circumstances to turn their strengths — bravery, compassion, daring, empathy — into weakness, their altruism curdling into self-righteous zealotry and greed, leading them to conspiracy, and, finally, to murder. Grounded in the hard reality of today's headlines, Acts of Faith is a galvanizing novel.
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist comes a stunning, timely new novel about the physical perils and moral crises faced by a group of men and women who try to relieve the suffering caused by war and famine in contemporary Sudan.
About the Author
Philip Caputo worked nine years for the Chicago Tribune and shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for his reporting on election fraud in Chicago. He is the author of six other works of fiction and two memoirs, including A Rumor of War, about his service in Vietnam. He divides his time between Connecticut and Arizona.
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