Synopses & Reviews
Russell Banks has exhibited an astonishingly imaginative range throughout his distinguished career as a novelist, and his uniquely realistic American voice, on display in such modern classics as Rule of the Bone
and Continental Drift
, continues to shine in this latest effort. Fans and newcomers alike will be rewarded by his incisive eye for character and his ability to deliver a relentless and engaging narrative always in the service of his inimitable style.
The Darling is Hannah Musgrave's story, told emotionally and convincingly years later by Hannah herself. A political radical and member of the Weather Underground, Hannah has fled America to West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends and colleagues of Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord and now ex-president of Liberia. When Taylor leaves for the United States in an effort to escape embezzlement charges, he's immediately placed in prison. Hannah's encounter with Taylor in America ultimately triggers a series of events whose momentum catches Hannah's family in its grip and forces her to make a heartrending choice.
Set in Liberia and the United States from 1975 through 1991, The Darling is a political-historical thriller reminiscent of Greene and Conrad that explodes the genre, raising serious philosophical questions about terrorism, political violence, and the clash of races and cultures.
"Six years after the publication of his much-lauded novel Cloudsplitter, Banks returns with a portrayal of personal and political turmoil in West Africa and the U.S. The darling of the title is narrator Hannah Musgrave, a privileged child of the turbulent 1960s and '70s, who now, at 59, reflects on her life. After participating in freewheeling sexual experimentation and radical politics, Hannah is wanted by the FBI for her involvement in the Weather Underground. Under an assumed name, she flees the U.S. for Africa, traveling first to Ghana, then Liberia, where in 1976 she meets and marries Woodrow Sundiata, a government official. Taking on another identity that of foreign wife, and eventually mother to three sons Hannah finds herself increasingly involved with the highest members of Liberia's government as Woodrow's political star rises. She also finds purpose in establishing a sanctuary for endangered chimpanzees. When Liberia explodes into civil war, Hannah's life and the lives of her family are in danger. Readers will be stunned by the gut-wrenching (and often foolish) decisions she makes and by the horrifying outcome of her association with key figures such as Liberian president Samuel Doe and insurgent Charles Taylor. An articulate and keenly observant narrator, Hannah explains Liberia's history and U.S. connections as smoothly as she reflects on tribal practices, the fate of chimpanzees and her own misguidedness. Better yet, for the purposes of good storytelling, she is conflicted and selfish, and often naïve despite her wide experience. She emerges as a fascinating figure, striking universal chords in her search for identity and home, though her life may ultimately be a study in futility. A rich and complex look at the searing connections between the personal and the political, this is one of Banks's most powerful novels yet. Agent, Ellen Levine." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"While [Hannah's] motives are impeccable, her actions inevitably backfire and result in appalling carnage. Banks explored the themes of radical idealism and racial struggle with much greater success in Cloudsplitter..." Library Journal
"[A] tale that is savage in its particulars but consistently elegant in its formal control." Mary Gordon, The New York Times Book Review
"Banks never makes it easy, but this is worth reading as a warning to anyone not chary of the children of privilege." Kirkus Reviews
"Banks brings the full weight of his storytelling genius and psychological perceptiveness to a novel as compulsively readable as it is eviscerating in its dramatization of cultural divides, political mayhem, psychotic violence, and profound alienation." Booklist (Starred Review)
is not an easy story to read, but it's difficult to put down....[A]n absorbing, deadly serious novel that forces us to face the complexity of saving others. Banks's exploration of international relations is no less compelling than his insight into the private bargains we make and break with those we love and abandon." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire Christian Science Monitor review
Set in Liberia and the United States from 1975 through 1991, The Darling
is the story of Hannah Musgrave, a political radical and member of the Weather Underground.
Hannah flees America for West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends of the notorious warlord and ex-president, Charles Taylor. Hannah's encounter with Taylor ultimately triggers a series of events whose momentum catches Hannah's family in its grip and forces her to make a heartrending choice.
About the Author
Russell Banks was raised in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts. The eldest of four children, he grew up in a working-class environment, which has played a major role in his writing. A prolific writer of fiction, his titles include Continental Drift, Affliction, The Sweet Hereafter, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplitter, and The Angel On The Roof, a collection of short stories. He has lived in a variety of places, from New England to Jamaica, and currently lives in upstate New York. Russell Banks is married to the poet Chase Twichell, and is the father of four grown daughters.