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.