Author: Tanya Parker Mills
Format: Paperback, Kindle/ebook
Publisher: Book Surge Publishing
Book Source: Provided by Author
Category: Historical Fiction, Suspense/Thriller
Style: Compelling, intense scenes of violence/torture
Synopsis from GoodReads:
. . . Through gritty, gut wrenching prose Mills’s heroic and courageous storytelling exposes the horrors of dictatorship and the mindless cruelty that flows from political repression. It also sends a message of hope, inspiration, and faith in the human heart. Mills’s The Reckoning masterfully weaves the real horrors of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with the rich threads of a compelling fictional narrative as raw and real as anything taken from today’s political headlines. . . .more
My Take:Okay. The synopsis gives a wonderful idea of what this book is about, but not the plot. So, here goes: beginning in the summer of 2002, our heroine, Theresa, a freelance journalist after a story, illegally crosses out of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and is spotted by the Islamist fundamentalist group, the Ansari, which leads to her apprehension by the Iraqi army. With her are arrested her cameraman, Peter (who is in love with her), and her three Kurdish guides (a father and two sons).
First let me say that this book is the perfect illustration of the vagaries of the publishing industry. The Reckoning is easily one of the most professional books I have ever read, yet is self-published by Ms. Mills. Her finely honed craft draws in the reader with painful, sometimes shocking realism. Her plot so tight it's hermetically sealed, her characters rich and compelling, her pacing impeccable, she accomplishes what only the best writers manage: she disappears as she envelopes the reader in the story.
She creates an unlikely hero in the arresting officer, Tariq al-Alwali, US educated but caught up in events beyond his control, doing what he must to keep his family alive. Like himself, his mother and grandfather, even his house help all live in fear knowing that any moment they could be arrested, arbitrarily executed, and never heard from again, all without cause or hope of redress. Just as the rest of the Iraqi population, they are at the mercy of their government and the consciences (or lack thereof) of the men in power.
I appreciate how Ms. Mills manages to convey all this without making judgments either in politics or religion. As heated as grew the discussion regarding in the war in Iraq (particularly at the time this book was published in 2008), she simply relates the facts and leaves politics out of it: this is what happened and this is how it affected the people in the story. There is no ideological debate.
The reader should be cautioned that Ms. Mills writes with stark realism and doesn't pull any punches. Her characters are tortured and brutalized in the manner known to be practiced in Iraq at the time, including rape and dismemberment. People suffer and die. She often taxes the sensibilities of the reader with the intensity of her prose. One particular torture scene almost made me put down the book, but I couldn't and so skipped a page or two which served just as well.
The squeamish part of me wants to knock off a star for the violence, but in all fairness, Ms. Mills accomplishes exactly what she sets out to do, which is immerse the reader in the experience. That earns extra stars in my book.
Bottom line: As the synopsis explains, Ms. Mills makes going home again the heart of this book. Finding peace with oneself and with God, forgiveness, and healing become the true driving factors. It is a novel to read again and again to truly appreciate all its subtle nuances.
FTC disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided by the author or their agent with the understanding I would publish a fair and honest review. I receive no other compensation for this content.