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Posted December 23, 2010
Great writing. Weaving a totally alien culture into the lives of "real" people in the midst of upheaval and dramatic change. The "page turner" label is too trite for this book. It is actually a "chapter" turner. When you finish each one, it is so hard not to immediately start the next! Can't wait for the next book in this series. An excellent choice for any book club.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 19, 2010
Singing in Babylon is set in the early days of personal computers, when Bill Gates had become a household name, but the internet was still just a rumor.
Kate has lost her parents; her father to an accident caused by a drunk driver, and her mother to cancer. The only family she has left in the world is her Aunt Margie, who's proud of Kate for being the first one in their family to attend college and graduate with a Bachelor's degree.
Her mother's illness has left Kate with a mountain of school and medical debts, and no way to quickly pay them down. Aunt Margie insists on paying the medical debts, but the school debt keeps Kate's dream of graduate school far out of her reach.
An advertisement for teaching English as a second language at Hanford Language Systems in Saudi Arabia snatches her out of her safe, known little American world and leaves her bewildered and homesick behind walls in an expatriate teachers' compound in Saudi Arabia.
Along the way, she meets a journalist, Philip, a widower. Philip is researching foreign workers who enter Saudi Arabia, hoping to travel to the United States illegally. Philip keeps bumping into Kate as they become friends with diplomats serving at the U. S. Consulate and are invited on outings together.
Hungering for spiritual food and fellowship, Philip and Kate attend a low-profile gathering of expatriates that meets in different homes each week to avoid causing trouble with the Saudi government. The title, Singing in Babylon is a reference to meetings of like-minded Christians who find a deep spiritual connection that transcends the hazards of being Christians in Moslem Saudi Arabia, and all concern for nationality or race.
Although Philip feels protective and tender toward Kate, she isn't aware of his interest at first and believes him to be married because he still wears his wedding ring.
Being young, single and good-looking is a hazard for Kate, even among the expatriate men in the school community. She pointedly avoids the attentions of Mr. Khoury, the administrator of the language school, and becomes adept at avoiding the compound's alcoholic evening parties, but nearly gets herself into even deeper difficulty with Jason. Kate only learns about Jason's troubled marriage and alcholism after he becomes too inebriated to drive her home from a musical evening at the French consulate. Philip rescues her and returns her to her home.
Philip comes to Kate's rescue several times and invites her out on outings to view different local landmarks and to eat at famous restaurants that have a more relaxed attitude toward Western customs. But Philip is struggling with his guilt over his wife's death and questioning his motives for spending time with Kate. He thinks he doesn't deserve to be happy because of the loveless nature of his previous marriage. He avoids sharing his thoughts and feelings, and isn't able to tell Kate that he loves her.
Meanwhile, Mr. Khoury hasn't given up his pursuit of Kate, and becomes angry at her determined avoidance of him. In revenge for her rejection of his attentions, he kidnaps Kate.
This book is an exciting, fun read for a more mature reader with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. It grapples with issues of global political and spiritual importance, and exercises the mind while being entertaining.
If you are a global nomad or share a yen for travelling to other countries, Singing in Babylon is definitely for you!