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Thirty years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Philip Caputo crossed the deserts of Sudan and Eritrea on foot and camelback, a journey that inspired his first novel, Horn of Africa, and awakened a lifelong fascination with Africa. His travels have since taken him back to Sudan, as well as to Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania, and from those experiences he has fashioned Acts of Faith, his most ambitious novel. A stunning and timely epic, it tells the stories of pilots, aid workers, missionaries, and renegades struggling to relieve the misery wrought by the civil war in Sudan.
The hearts of these men and women are in the right place, but as they plunge into a well of moral corruption for which they are ill-prepared, their hidden flaws conspire with circumstances to turn their strengths—bravery, compassion, daring, and empathy—into weaknesses. In pursuit of noble ends, they make ethical compromises; their altruism curdles into self-righteous zealotry and greed, entangling them in a web of conspiracies that leads, finally, to murder. A few, however, escape the moral trap and find redemption in the discovery that firm convictions can blind the best-intentioned man or woman to the difference between right and wrong.
Douglas Braithwaite, an American aviator who flies food and medicine to Sudan’s ravaged south, is torn between his altruism and powerful personal ambitions. His partners are Fitzhugh Martin, a multiracial Kenyan who sees Sudan as a cause that can give purpose to his directionless life, and Wesley Dare, a hard-bitten bush pilot who is not as cynical as he thinks he is and sacrifices all for the woman he loves.
They are joined by two strong women: Quinette Hardin, an evangelical Christian from Iowa who liberates slaves captured by Arab raiders and who falls in love with a Sudanese rebel; and Diana Briggs, the daughter of a family with colonial roots in Africa, who believes that her love for her adopted continent might be enough to save it.
Pitted against them is Ibrahim Idris ibn Nur-el-Din, a fierce Arab warlord whose obsessive quest for an escaped concubine undermines his faith in the holy war he is waging against Sudan’s southern blacks.
In a harsh yet alluring landscape, these and other vividly realized characters act out a drama of modern-day Africa. Grounded in the reality of today’s headlines, Acts of Faith is a captivating novel of human complexity that combines seriousness with all the seductive pleasure of a masterly thriller.
“Philip Caputo’s devastating new novel, Acts of Faith, will be to the era of the Iraq war what Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American became to the Vietnam era: a parable about American excursions abroad and the dangers of missionary zeal, a Conradian tale about idealism run amok, capitalistic greed sold as paternalistic benevolence, ignorance disguised as compassion. . . . [A] modern day Nostromo that reverberates with echoes from today's headlines. . . . The characters are all splendidly drawn . . . keenly observed descriptions of the Sudanese landscape . . . Indeed, Mr. Caputo writes with such authority that he's able to invest events that might seem improbable in another novelist's hands with an uncommon degree of verisimilitude, delineating not only the viewpoints of his Western visitors, but also those of the Sudanese rebels and their Islamic opponents with equally sure-handed drama and psychological ballast. . . . The powerful conclusion to this powerful novel not only ratifies one character's observation that ‘Sudan was a land of illusions,’ but also underscores the degree to which those illusions often reside in the absolutism of individuals’ political and moral convictions.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“In Acts of Faith Philip Caputo has fashioned a gripping cast of characters and placed them in a spellbinding story. You can't get any better than that.” —Winston Groom
“There is plenty to admire about Philip Caputo's new novel but its grandest attraction may be the author's unbridled ambition. This is a huge book . . . And it tells a big, complicated story. He resembles Graham Greene. . . Acts of Faith should be required reading at the service academies, not to mention our various war colleges and other military schools, because Caputo tells us a secret that seems to have escaped even the military's attention. . . He knows something that the geniuses running the Pentagon and CIA haven't learned. . . . Acts of Faith is Caputo's best novel yet.” —Lucian K. Truscott IV, The New York Times Book Review
“Caputo, a Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter turned novelist, writes with astonishing authority, launching several complex plot lines and an enormous, vibrant cast of characters—aid workers, soldiers, militants, mercenaries, missionaries and corrupt officials. The plot threads join in a propulsive, satisfying finish, inevitably inching demon and deity ever closer together.” —Michael Ollove, The Baltimore Sun
“Caputo’s ambitious adventure novel, set against a backdrop of the Sudanese wars, makes for a dense, riveting update on Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. . . Caputo presents a sharply observed, sweeping portrait, capturing the incestuous world of the aid groups, Sudan’s multiethnic mix and the decayed milieu of Kenyan society... Atmospheric ... the understated climax that leads to Knight Air’s demise is powerful in its impact.” —Publishers Weekly
“Philip Caputo, from Vietnam onwards, has understood the hardest truths of the modern world better than almost anybody. Acts of Faith is a stunningly unflinching novel. On the surface it is set in Africa, but in fact its true landscape is the ravaged soul of the twenty-first century. Philip Caputo is one of the few absolutely essential writers at work today.” —Robert Olen Butler
“Acts of Faith weaves together character, politics, war and love in a most compelling way. [Caputo's] balancing of all these elements is really masterful. His grip on the inner forces and political realities that drive the characters displays a familiarity and knowledge that is profound. He is equally adept at describing the musings of a Muslim Arab warlord as he is an Middle-American relgious aid worker. That he manages all their stories within the context of battles, lust, love, disease, despair, hope, frustration and, ultimately, redemption, is Hemingway-esque. And, to my great delight, Phil's dialogue crackles throughout. It rings with accent and place, and, I think, is amongst the best he has ever written. . . . [A] tour-de-force, expertly constructed by one of our nation's finest writers.” —John Katzenbach
“Acts of Faith offers an image of Africa deserving comparison with Conrad, Hemingway, Peter Matthiessen, and Jan de Hartog's forgotten near-masterpiece The Spiral Road.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Caputo (A Rumor of War) has provided a lively and convincing fictional backdrop to this war, with its tribal rivalries, economic undercurrents, and personal triumphs and betrayals. . . Caputo handles the scorching tragedy of this conflict in an objective and somewhat journalistic manner; the result . . . is a compassionate and dramatic novel.” —Jim Coan, Library Journal
“Reporter, novelist, and non fiction writer Caputo (The Ghosts of Tsavo, 2002) sets this fascinating tale of aid workers against Sudan's civil war, where the Muslim government in the north fights the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) for control of the Christian and animist south. . . [I]t gives us a powerful lens with which to view the heartbreaking problems of Africa, where temporary relief has become a permanent industry. This is a big novel, old fashioned in the best way, full of intrigue and a large cast of sharply drawn characters. And with a Sudan cease-fire recently in the news, it couldn't be timelier.” —Keir Graff, Booklist
“Philip Caputo is a splendid, muscular story teller who possesses the crucial power to make endearing ordinary men from diverse fragilities and stubborness.” —Gloria Emerson, Los Angeles Times
“For the past twenty years, Caputo has written parables of hubris upbraided, populated by outsiders whose defects lead them into trouble as unerringly as does fate.” —David Haward Bain, New York Times Book Review
“Devastating. . . . Acts of Faith will be to the era of the Iraq war what Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American became to the Vietnam era. . . . Powerful.” —The New York Times
“Acts of Faith should be required reading. . . . Caputo’s best novel yet.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Philip Caputo's Sudan is a place drawn so real, dust and despair fall from the pages. . . . So beautiful, so awful, so authentic, so wonderful, so hopeless, it grieves the heart." —The Miami Herald
“Destined to be a generation-defining book.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A miracle. . . . You can hardly conceive of a more affecting reading experience.” —Houston Chronicle
“Caputo lets no one and nothing off the hook.” —Richard Bausch, Washington Post Book World
“Caputo takes on most of the hot-button issues of our time–racism, random violence, disempowerment, the decay of social fabric, even the nature of evil itself–and more than lives to tell the tale.” —Roget L. Simon, Los Angeles Times