Rogan’s second novel (after The Lifeboat) begins with a middle-aged woman’s moral awakening, when she discovers that the radioactive weaponry her employer produces can injure soldiers using it and damage unborn children. While working as an administrative assistant at a munitions plant in Red Bud, Okla., Maggie Rayburn reads a top-secret report (left unattended on her boss’s desk) detailing how to discredit evidence that the weapons are poisonous and unreliable. Maggie quits her job and goes to work for Red Bud’s only other employer: the prison. After learning about the incarceration of innocent men and the economics of prison labor, she leaves that job, as well as her husband and high school–age son, to assist a civil rights attorney in Phoenix. Meanwhile, back in Red Bud, her family needs her and authorities pursue her. Paralleling Maggie’s story is that of a group of soldiers serving in Iraq before returning home and unable to resume their former lives. They too undertake a project fueled by good intentions, fraught with unintended consequences. Linking Maggie and the veterans is a midwife— a soldier’s girlfriend—who notices an increase in birth defects. Rogan delineates the journey from outrage to action to doubt, contrasting mundane routines with the philosophical dilemmas of ordinary people. Vested interests, including those of threatening policemen and a consoling pastor, make it difficult to do the right thing, as do complications resulting from every choice. (Apr.)
PRAISE FOR NOW AND AGAIN:
"With consummate command of narrative, Charlotte Rogan nimbly brings together whistleblowers and soldiers in a damning--and page-turning--critique of America's military-industrial complex and its massive amount of collateral damage. It's the novel we deserve for the war we didn't."
Teddy Wayne, author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Kapitoil
"Now and Again is breathtaking in its scope and insight. With wit, humanity, and extraordinary clarity of vision, Rogan has found the uniting thread that weaves together contemporary American life. This is America from the ground up, full of ordinary people trying to make sense of their lives, driven by that brand of frontier idealism that might yet be out last best hope."
Patrick Flanery, author of Absolution and Fallen Land
"Sprawling and vibrant."
Matt Gallagher, The Washington Post
"An absorbing search for truth...no less exciting than her first...extremely topical...Rogan writes successfully, and forcefully, about experiences that are foreign until they feel familiar."
Olivia Lowenberg, The Christian Science Monitor
"Rogan's storytelling is multi-layered and many-faceted."
Carol Memmott, The Chicago Tribune
"This sophomore novel from Rogan, who wrote the award-winning The Lifeboat, once again displays a strong, bright voice and an uncompromising command of storytelling."
"Has the same lasting power [as her debut, The Lifeboat]."
Katherine A. Powers, Barnes & Noble Review
"Rogan's second novel...delineates the journey from outrage to action to doubt, contrasting mundane routines with the philosophical dilemmas of ordinary people."
"Rogan has an excellent grip of the necessary satisfactions of plot, and of both structure and character...She confidently and swiftly builds a complex, three-dimensional lattice of allegiance and fact."
Aida Edemariam, The Guardian (US Edition)
"A sprawling contemporary story."
Book Page, Book Page
"Rogan's debut novel, The Lifeboat, was a suspenseful, psychological survival story, and her new novel is just as harrowing, and even more complex."
The Huffington Post
Bill Goldstein, NBC New York
"Stunning...seemingly unrelated story threads are ingeniously woven into an explosive whole. [A] morally complex story, part Silkwood, part Redeployment...Book groups, take note."
In this stunning novel from Rogan (The Lifeboat), seemingly unrelated story threads are ingeniously woven into an explosive whole. The Red Bud, OK, munitions plant provides steady paychecks to half the town. So when secretary Maggie Rayburn sees a top-secret document indicating that faulty weaponry, emitting radioactive dust, is being supplied to soldiers in Afghanistan, she becomes an unpopular whistle-blower. Dolly Jackson, a midwife at an Oklahoma Veterans Affairs center, notices a disturbing number of birth defects among the soldiers' newborns, yet the attending physician is reluctant to tell anyone. And somewhere in an Afghan desert Capt. Penn Sinclair tries to maintain morale among troops whose tour has been unexpectedly extended. Hoping to take their minds off the bad news, Sinclair sends a convoy of men on a humanitarian mission and into a deadly trap. Rogan skillfully portrays characters who examine their consciences, working toward a more responsible way of living in the world. Power struggles ensue, families suffer, friendships are tested, and wells of strength are tapped, yet the author offers no pat answers to life's difficult questions. VERDICT The Lifeboat was honored with nominations for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and The Guardian first book award. This morally complex story, part Silkwood, part Redeployment, should fare even better. Book groups, take note. [See Prepub Alert, 10/12/15.]—Sally Bissell, formerly with Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Myers, FL
After The Lifeboat (2012), a tightly focused first novel with a morally ambiguous narrator, Rogan takes an opposite approach in this outraged tale of a number of characters impacted by America's military-industrial juggernaut. In Oklahoma, 39-year-old Maggie Rayburn quits her secretarial job at a munitions plant after swiping a disturbing document she found on her boss's desk, which said, "Discredit the doctors. Flood the system with contradictory reports." She hides the folder in her house alongside a letter she'd received from local midwife Dolly Jackson that implied the factory is causing health problems in the community. Maggie takes up more causes at her next job, at the local prison: an inmate railroaded by the legal system and the prison's conspiracy to provide slave labor to the munitions factory. Maggie finds herself at cloak-and-dagger cross-purposes with a cartoonishly evil triumvirate of local power brokers—her former boss at the factory, the head of the prison, and her own minister. More believably, her new sense of purpose endangers her marriage to likable husband Lyle and sets their teenage son, Will, on an unexpected course of self-discovery. Meanwhile, in Iraq, a convoy of soldiers is attacked the same day their tours have been automatically extended for the "surge." The surviving soldiers return home emotionally wounded. A head injury leaves angry Le Roy Jones able to see life only in binary terms; doctors change the diagnosis of Dolly's boyfriend, bookish Danny Joiner, from post-traumatic stress disorder to personality disorder—a pre-existing condition—to save the Army money. Capt. Penn Sinclair, feeling guilty that he led them into danger, brings the men back together to create an anti-war website that becomes a magnet for righteous anger. Soon the site broadens its targets to include munitions factories and prisons, and thus is manufactured a tangential connection between the soldiers and Maggie. A complex bundle of motives, Maggie raises provocative questions about the value and cost of moral empathy, but the soldiers' stories remain schematic at best. Rogan ends up trumpeting her politics so loudly that she drowns out the emotional response from readers, even those sharing her views.