Exiles

Overview

 In this startling new work of fiction, the acclaimed author of A Rumor of War creates three powerful dramas of dislocation, following his characters places they have no business being and into situations that are vastly?and dangerously?beyond their depth.

In the Connecticut suburbs, a motherless young man suddenly becomes the beneficiary of a wealthy older couple, whose generosity has unsuspected motives and a sinister price.  On an island in Australia's Torres ...

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Exiles

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Overview

 In this startling new work of fiction, the acclaimed author of A Rumor of War creates three powerful dramas of dislocation, following his characters places they have no business being and into situations that are vastly—and dangerously—beyond their depth.

In the Connecticut suburbs, a motherless young man suddenly becomes the beneficiary of a wealthy older couple, whose generosity has unsuspected motives and a sinister price.  On an island in Australia's Torres Strait, an enigmatic castaway throws kinks into the local culture and sexual politics.  And in the jungles of Vietnam, four American soldiers undertake a mystical search for a man-eating tiger.  Filled with atmospheric tension, crackling with psychological observation, and evoking masters from Joseph Conrad to Robert Stone, Exiles is a riveting literary experience.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As good an introduction to Philip Caputo as one can find." - The New York Times Book Review

"Breathtaking... a tour de force of impassioned prose." - Baltimore Sun

"Caputo is a splendid muscular storyteller... Exiles is remarkable and often harrowing." - Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Extraordinary... a kaleidoscope made up of nothing but exiles." - The New York Times

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in Connecticut, Australia and Vietnam, these three novellas by Caputo, author of the classic Vietnam memoir "A Rumor of War", explore what it means to be an exile. Dante Panetta, a 24-year-old blue-collar worker in "Standing In," meets wealthy, manipulative Greer Rhodes on a train. Struck by Dante's resemblance to her dead son, Greer invites him to move into her home in a posh Connecticut community. Then she remakes him in her son's imageuntil he has an epiphany about his working-class roots. The story is simplistic in its portrayal of noble poor folks and superficial snobs; still, its message about a young man waking up from his exile from his true self has the satisfying, sentimental impact of an old-fashioned Hollywood movie. When a mysterious castaway washes up on "Paradise," a tiny island off the coast of Australia, American expatriate David MacKenzie is forced to confront his alcoholism, his lonely marriage and his general sense of despair and estrangement in a foreign culture. A guilt-ridden American soldier in Vietnam must lead a reluctant squad in stalking a tiger that has carried off their mess sergeant in "In the Forest of the Laughing Elephant." As a hill tribesman guides them deep into the jungle, the men's sense of displacement is increasingly magnified. In each of these narratives, Caputo builds a fish-out-of-water story on the foundation of some eternal contrast, wealth and poverty; ancient traditions and modern corruption; man and nature. In each case, it is beautifully rendered detail rather than any stylistic or thematic innovation that carries his message home.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite an absorbing premise, multiple adventures at sea and ashore, and a succession of colorful characters, this account by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caputo (Rumors of War) of a nautical voyage from Maine to the tropics, and from innocence to disillusionment, lingers in the doldrums before acquiring the tragic velocity of its denouement. In 1901, in an apparently quixotic character-building exercise, "grim and intransigent" Boston Brahmin Cyrus Braithwaite banishes his three adolescent sons (16-year-old daredevil Nathaniel, sharp-tongued Eliot, 15, and rational but timid Andrew, 12) to sea for the summer in the family schooner, the Double Eagle--with food supplies, $30 and orders not to show their faces until September. When an old salt advises them, "Keep yer hawsers free fer runnin', yer eyes on the weathah, an' remember that any idjit kin crack it on but the wise man knaowsta shorten sail on time," however, it's obvious that their plan to try to emulate their father's early career as a wrecker will bring them all the disaster the sea can deliver. Storms, fog, sharks and alligators, encounters with unscrupulous people from every social strata and other misadventures all build toward the inevitable, presaged hurricane, two tragic deaths and the wreck of the Double Eagle. Once the long-awaited hurricane finally hits, off the coast of Cuba, Caputo generates real excitement and suspense as the romantic salvage venture concocted by the three boys and their Yale sidekick and crew member becomes a life-or-death test of character. But the chapters on the trip from Maine to the Florida Keys are thickly coated with local and historical color, including dialect-heavy oystermen and sponge-harvesters. The gothic subplot of Cyrus's motives and the Braithwaite family's secrets, played out against the Civil War's aftermath and the Spanish-American War, adds ballast on a vessel already laden with a heavy cargo of Original Sin, inherited character flaws, parents who destroy their children and the decline of America's "barons of mercantile aristocracy," whose guilty secrets haunt them down the generations. The concatenation of all these elements may daunt some readers; others will appreciate Captuo's meticulous research and his Conradian vision of America's past. 40,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Ever since his first book, the much-acclaimed "A Rumor of War" (LJ 5/15/77), a memoir of his Vietnam experience, Caputo has explored the dehumanizing and alienating impact of war. These three stories continue the trend, although the first, "Standing In," is only indirectly war-related. In it, a young barber grieving over his mother's death finds himself "adopted" by a wealthy couple whose real adopted son was killed in a supposed jet accident during the Persian Gulf crisis. In the process, he loses his sense of selfuntil each side is forced to confront the unpleasant truth. The second story is set in Vietnam and focuses on a sergeant whose fear of fear (in the form of a man-eating tiger) leads him down a path of no return. The third involves a Vietnam veteran haunted by ghosts real and imagined even as he flees to the Australian outback, then to a tiny island. In these stories, the sense of place and fragility of the human psyche are both powerfully evoked. Highly recommended. David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Kirkus Reviews
Three impressively varied and dramatic novellas, the first collection of shorter fiction from the author of such novels as "Horn of Africa" (1980) and "Equation for Evil" (1996), as well as the acclaimed Vietnam memoir "A Rumor of War" (1977).

The first and longest story, "Standing In," traces the emotional course travelled by Dante Panetta, a young barber who, while returning by Amtrak to Connecticut for his mother's funeral, meets an older married couple—Greer and Julian Rhodes—to whom he finds himself helplessly bound by an "incredible accident of genetics." The ways in which Dante's eerie physical resemblance to their dead son affects both him and them are explored with brisk economy and skillful pacing in a memorable depiction of identity crisis and class conflict. "Paradise" describes the volatile impact of a shipwreck survivor on the inhabitants of a small island off the Australian coast. Caputo renders the locals' speech patterns expertly and shifts viewpoints to dazzling effect, creating enormous tension as the disturbed islanders wonder whether the mysterious Anson Barlow is a drug runner, or murderer, or something altogether worse. There's also a splendid surprise ending, in a terrific piece of storytelling that Peter Matthiessen or Robert Stone might well envy. "In the Forest of the Laughing Elephant" records a "rescue mission" carried out in the jungles of Vietnam by American soldiers whose mess sergeant has been carried away by an enormous tiger. The mission's obsessed leader is determined to exert authority over every enemy, even one motivated by nothing more combative than natural appetite ("It had to be shown who ruled this jungle"). The story is a tour de force: an inventive and haunting parable about men out of their element in a strange and dangerous new land.

A possible homage to literary mentors (the novellas respectively recall "The Great Gatsby", "The Nigger of the `Narcissus," and "Heart of Darkness"), and the finest work of Caputo's career—a quantum leap beyond his previous fiction.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679768388
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1998
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

After serving with the Marines in Vietnam, Philip Caputo spent six years as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, and won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on election fraud in Chicago. In 1975 he was wounded in Beirut and, during his convalescence, completed the manuscript for A Rumor of War, a Vietnam memoir that was published while Caputo was in Moscow, back on assignment for the Tribune. In 1977 he left the paper and turned to novels, of which he has written four, plus another memoir. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Leslie Blanchard Ware.
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Table of Contents

Standing in 1
Paradise 161
In the Forest of the Laughing Elephant 255
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