Monday, January 21, 2013
The Expats: Visiting the World of Large "T" Thrills
The Expats, the newest book we're discussing at the From Left to Write bookclub is a thriller from first time novelist Chris Pavone.
Protagonist Kate Moore has left the dangerous CIA job she hid from her husband Dexter to move with him and their two young boys to Luxembourg. After years of international travel and thrilling casework, Kate finds adjusting to a new culture less work than staying engaged with being a full-time mom. A sudden friendship with another expat American couple brings up the threat of revealed secrets from Kate's past, and worse.
Reading Pavone's book offered the pleasures of working a literary Rubik's cube. The story jumps back and forth in time, each switch offering a new revelation from what the reader knew before. Suspicions and sympathies are confirmed, swapped, rearranged. I loved the journeys through the European countryside and capitals and through the workings of Kate's analytic mind.
Our bookclub usually discusses how the literature touches our own lives but Kate reminded me more of a jet-setting mom like Angelina Jolie than myself. The closest connection came when I was reading about Kate's family ski trip to the mountains above Geneva, Switzerland while Randy and the girls and I were enjoying New Year's in the Colorado Rockies. But Kate's slopes were black diamonds, while mine were bunnies and greens. Her fears were of treachery, assassination, betrayal; mine were of landing on my bum.
In many ways, it was the perfect book to tuck into my carry-on bag. Next to an adrenaline-filled week of performing on stage in our grade school Variety Show in March, Colorado will be, I am nearly certain, one of the biggest adventures of my year. And that is fine for me right now. Kate Moore's story added a little extra vicarious zing to an experience I wanted to leave with intact knees and memories of thrills with small "t"s.
We saw my brother in Fort Collins before we headed for the slopes. Mia is only a few months older than he was when we lost our parents. "Right now your job is staying alive," he told me, and I nodded with complete understanding. For the two of us, that is normal conversation.
If Kate's story of international manhunts and cyber-crime touched me at this point in my life, it was through a realization about safety.
It's not news that stories like Kate's reinvention of her life appeal to women like me for whom routine, stability and safety are precious gifts we want to sustain. Nor is it any surprise that fantasy is our means to temporarily sink into an alternate reality. We giggle through Magic Mike and then go home to take a shower and wash off the temporary sweaty indulgence. We watch Downton Abby and commiserate with the British noblewoman or man of our choice. Girls makes us feel again young, hungry, searching and clueless in our twenties before we feel again old enough to be glad we will never go through such hell again.
Kate brings risk and intrigue back into her world by the end of the book; it's lovely to watch another woman make that choice.
Read more posts about The Expats at From Left to Write. I received a copy of the book with no obligation.