It's hard to talk about "The Woman Who Lost Her Soul" without giving away too much of its intrigue. The novel starts off in U.S.-occupied Haiti, but it's not really just about Haiti. It's about the toll paid by individuals when humanitarian interventions peter out or fail, and that makes the novel's drama all the more heartbreaking and riveting.
The title of Bob Shacochis' first book in 10 years initially refers to a woman calling herself a photojournalist, making contacts in Haiti in the mid-1990s when the U.S. military occupied the Caribbean country. It's a turbulent time period that Shacochis knows well -- he wrote about his experiences embedded with U.S. Special Forces in Haiti in 1994 in the nonfiction work "The Immaculate Invasion."
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"The Woman Who Lost Her Soul"By Bob Shacochis
Atlantic Monthly Press, 640 pages, $28
Then Shacochis expands the story over five decades and three continents. He manages to cover the Cold War, the Balkans, the rise of Islamist extremism and Haiti's seemingly endless humanitarian crisis while exploring the photojournalist's disturbing family history.
It's a sweeping, expansive book grounded by details such as epic potholes in Haiti's roads and crowded ferry decks in Turkey. Without veering into conspiracy theories or melodrama, Shacochis builds for both his readers and his characters a sense that something important is being overlooked amid competing agendas.
"The Woman Who Lost Her Soul" is an elegant reminder that connections are made one by one -- but not everyone is playing the same game.