Phil Klay, who gave us the National Book Award-triumphing collection of short stories Redeployment, follows up together with his first novel, Missionaries, about America’s unofficial warfare on Colombian guerillas, militias and drug cartels.
The novel, staggering in scope, follows four lead characters. Mason is a U.S. Army Special Forces operative grew to become liaison to the Colombian navy who’s searching out a feel of purpose after serving long deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lisette is a foreign conflict journalist who has spent years masking the down and dirty horrors at the streets of Kabul and elsewhere. Juan Pablo, Mason’s attaché in Colombia, laments his function as mercenary. And Abel, a lieutenant in the Los Mil Jesus militia, saw his own family butchered as a child however somehow controlled to live to tell the tale to take in his own function of power.
Before launching them on their eventual collision course, Klay introduces the foursome in alternating chapters over the first half of the book, diving years into the past as each character reflects on their lot in life. None of them genuinely chose their path, but every is resigned to accept it one manner or another. Even when they have a chance to walk faraway from it—to begin fresh, as with Mason and Lisette—they are apparently incapable of living a quieter, more secure life.
Klay’s vividly descriptive yet lyrical prose maintains their testimonies interesting, though the radical is at its best when occasions cascade into occasional bursts of photo violence. Klay, an Iraq War veteran, step by step ratchets up the unease throughout, which serves as a careful caution of more severe violence to come.
Missionaries gives a starkly sensible view of a conflict-torn region handiest hinted at on the nightly news that, at times, makes Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s issues light via comparison. At the same time, the novel provides a effective glimpse of the mental toll of war and a close examine people’s desperate tries to discover their location amid utter chaos.