Well, I spent a majority of it reading Bob Shacochis’s (Eastern Caribbean 1975-76) big, sprawling, long, and complex novel The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, a novel that spans five decades and three continents. It is a book Shacochis has been writing for twenty years and it is out this month from Grove Atlantic. They are calling it, Bob’s magnum opus.
The plot goes something like this: A humanitarian lawyer, Tom Harrington, travels to Haiti to investigate the murder of a beautiful seductive photojournalist, he is confronted there with a dangerous landscape of poverty, corruption, and voodoo. It is the late 1990s, a time of brutal guerrilla warfare and civilian kidnappings, and everyone has secrets.
To make sense of the death of the journalist, Harrington must plunge back into a thorny past and his complicated ties to both the photojournalist and a member of the Special Forces who was assigned to protect her.
To read Shacochis you must appreciate and marvel at his complex, dense and endless sentence structure which is in many ways a marvel in itself. Here are two examples of what waits you when you read The Woman Who Lost her Soul.
Eventually latecomers began to sit at Tom’s table — a tall, freckled, red-haired lunatic from Colorado whom Tom had once seen photograph over the shoulder of a macoute gunman as the gunman emptied his pistol into a teenage boy; a shy photographer from Japan with an upturned bowel of shiny black hair and a permanent smile who had begun his career by snapping soft-porn shots of high school girls in Osaka; a blonde-haired, deeply tanned woman from the Washington Post, all arms and legs in trekking shorts and tank top who had cataloged the most grisly human rights abuses after the coup d’etat, hundreds of photos she had shared with Tom, the entire trove copied, cataloged, and stored in his Miami law office in boxes marked Evidence.
Grudgingly, during the course of his interrogation the colonel had remarked that she was an exceptionally lucky girl, and grudgingly in return she had replied that she supposed she was, congratulating herself on the single piece of good fortune that she could accurately gauge, packaged in the irony of misfortune — the theft of her clutch, resulting in the depressing loss of her money but the altogether propitious separation of herself from the passport of Carla Costa, a document that would have proven instantly self-indicting, catastrophic evidence of her participation in unknown conspiracies, an advertisement for her manifold guilt, when she was picked up after she eventually circled back to her rented room at F. Nightengale’s.
That’s the cascading prose and delivery system you get from Bob Shacochis.
Sentence after sentence. Paragraph after paragraph. Page after page. Chapter after chapter. All 715 pages. Reading Shacochis, you wonder if you are going to escape the novel alive.
But you do. It is a long book packed with plots and characters and language you could die for if you had the courage and talent to pen it yourself. The novel is like stepping off a plane into a tropic Third World Country. A crowd of HCNs wait on the sticky tarmac. But you have faced real culture shock before. You can do it again, reading the pages of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul.
It is being published officially on Tuesday, September 3, 2013.
You can see and hear Bob read from his new novel all this fall, beginning here:
Monday, September 9, 7:00 PM — Reading & Signing
INKWOOD BOOKS 216 S. Armenia Avenue
CORAL GABLES, FL
Tuesday, September 10, 8:00 PM — Reading & Signing
BOOKS AND BOOKS, 265 Aragon Ave
Wednesday, September 11, 5:00 PM — Reading & Signing
LEMURIA BOOKSTORE, 202 Banner Hall, 4465 I-55 North
Thursday, September 12, 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
THACKER MOUNTAIN RADIO / SQUARE BOOKS, 160 Courthouse Square
Friday, September 14, 7:00 PM — Reading & Signing
MALAPROP’S BOOKSTORE, 55 Haywood Street
Monday, September 16, 7:30 PM — In conversation with Edwidge Dandicat
FREE LIBRARY OF PHILADELPHIA, 1901 Vine Street
NEW YORK CITY
Tuesday, September 17, 7:00 PM — In conversation with Colin Harrison
192 BOOKS, 192 Tenth Avenue
Wednesday, September 18, 7:00 PM — Reading & Signing
TENLEY-FRIENDSHIP LIBRARY / POLITICS & PROSE, 4450 Wisconsin Ave NW
Thursday, September 19, 7:00 PM — Reading & Signing
NEWTONVILLE BOOKS, 10 Langley Road
Friday, September 20, 6:00 PM — Reading & Signing
SALVE REGINA UNIVERSITY, Bazarsky Lecture Hall, 100 Ochre Point Avenue
NEW ORLEANS, LA
Sunday, September 22, 11:00 AM — “Moveable Feast of Authors”
SOUTHERN INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION, Sheraton New Orleans
Monday, September 23, 6:00 PM — Reading & Signing
FALL FOR THE BOOK FESTIVAL, George Mason University
Monday, September 30, 7:30 PM — Reading & Signing
TATTERED COVER BOOKSTORE, 2526 East Colfax Avenue
To purchase The Woman Who Lost Her Soul from Amazon.com, click on the book cover or the bold book title
— and Peace Corps Worldwide, an Amazon Associate, will receive a small remittance
that will help support our annual writers awards.