1991. Near Checkpoint Zulu, one hundred miles from the Kuwaiti border, Thomas Benton meets Arwood Hobbes. Read more...
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1991. Near Checkpoint Zulu, one hundred miles from the Kuwaiti border, Thomas Benton meets Arwood Hobbes. Benton is a British journalist who reports from war zones in part to avoid his lackluster marriage and a daughter he loves but cannot connect with; Arwood is a midwestern American private who might be an insufferable ignoramus, or might be a genuine lunatic with a death wish--it's hard to tell. Desert Storm is over, peace has been declared, but as they argue about whether it makes sense to cross the nearest border in search of an ice cream, they become embroiled in a horrific attack in which a young local girl in a green dress is killed as they are trying to protect her. The two men walk away into their respective lives. But something has cracked for them both.
Twenty-two years later, in another place, in another war, they meet again and are offered an unlikely opportunity to redeem themselves when that same girl in green is found alive and in need of salvation. Or is she?
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-11-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Millers second novel (after Norwegian by Night) is a polished and powerful commentary on the effects of war on two menan ambitious British journalist and a clueless American soldier who meet briefly in Iraq at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Private Arwood Hobbes and Brit reporter Thomas Benton witness the slaughter of Shiite civilians by the Iraqi army and cannot prevent the cold-blooded murder of a young girl in a green dress. The experience haunts both men for years, but 22 years later, in 2013, shocking news footage of an insurgent attack in Iraq reunites the two men in a desperate and risky gambit to save a girl in a green dress shown in the video. Middle-aged Hobbes is energized to right an old wrong, and old, slow Benton is reluctant to get involved. Amid the dangerous Syrian, Iraqi, and Kurdish refugee crisis in northern Iraq, Hobbes and Benton team up with a U.N. refugee officer, but the men are captured by ISIL terrorists, beginning a deadly cat and mouse game of torture, intimidation, and negotiation. Benton doesnt understand Hobbess obsession with the girl in the video or the unique skills hes gained since 1991. This is an excellent depiction of the complicated Iraq-Syria situation, especially the desperate plight of refugees and the Wests failure to provide peace or relief. Miller caps his stellar, electrifying story with a knockout ending. (Jan)
Taking a risk for a second chance
BookPage Fiction Top Pick, January 2017
While much of the world watched the Gulf War play out from the safety of their homes, Derek B. Miller found himself smack-dab in the middle of the action as an American university student studying abroad in Israel in the early 1990s. Now, with The Girl in Green, the award-winning writer (Norwegian by Night) returns to the conflict in Iraq in a darkly comic thriller that lays bare the absurdities of war.
It’s 1991, and the Gulf War has officially ended, but Arwood Hobbes, an American solider, is stationed at a sleepy outpost 100 miles from the Kuwaiti border. He is approached by Thomas Benton, a British journalist keen to visit an off-limits town; reckless from boredom, Hobbes allows Benton to pass. The off-base excursion, however, ends in tragedy when both he and Hobbes are forced to watch the cold-blooded killing of a young girl dressed in green.
Flash-forward to 2013: In the midst of a different war taking place in Iraq, Benton receives a call from Hobbes. A girl with an uncanny resemblance to the teenager they watched die 22 years earlier has shown up in a viral video of a mortar attack, and Hobbes thinks she has survived. As impossible and ill-fated as this mission seems, neither man can pass up a second chance to atone for a failure that has haunted them for decades.
A modern masterpiece, The Girl in Green taps into the same satirical vein as Joseph Heller’s war classic, Catch-22, as the two mismatched protagonists set out on a quixotic quest for redemption. Miller, who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the Iraqi war and has worked for the United Nations in disarmament policy, is well qualified to explore the tangled political, bureaucratic, cultural and religious issues at play in the Middle East. His tongue-in-cheek candor brings much-needed levity to the proceedings, making the difficult subject matter relatable and engaging. Bursting with humanity and humor, The Girl in Green is heartbreaking and hopeful in equal measures, delivering nail-biting suspense while bringing readers into the heart of the conflict in Iraq.
RELATED CONTENT: Read our Q&A with Derek B. Miller.