5.4.13

IN THE KINGDOM OF MEN, by Kim Barnes

It's 1967 and Gin Mitchell, a carefree girl from red-dirt Oklahoma, marries handsome, charismatic Mason McPhee who goes to work in the oil fields to provide for his pregnant bride and his soon-to-be family. Honest-to-a-fault Mason gets a job with Aramco, the American/Saudi oil company pumping America's energy out of the hostile sands of Saudi Arabia. Gin goes with him, and she finds herself immured in an over-furnished house in a compound she can't leave unless chaperoned, attended by her house servant Yash, a more or less indentured servant from India's Punjab. Gin, in the face of repeated warnings and graphic examples, can't stay inside the luxurious compound. She wants out, she wants to do what she wants, and no warning seem to suffice. Mason, meanwhile, is dealing with a corrupt situation that puts lives at risk. When Mason's outrage and Gin's smoldering unhappiness meet, lives start to come apart. I had some trouble with Gin's idiotic intransigence, which is never fully explained, and the ending was, for me, inexplicably weak and frustrating. Stories that end badly are often treated as extra-special, but too much of the ending just didn't quite hang together. But most of the book will catch your attention, and evoke a time past when America and oil ruled the world...except for the baking sands of Saudi Arabia. It's a 4.