Thursday, July 08, 2004

This is Not Civilization

Nathan Hamm's comments about Robert Rosenberg's Kyrgyzstan novel piqued my interest. It came from Amazon in 3 days, and I just finished reading it, taking it from my summer reading pile. What can one say? If you have ever worked in, visited, or lived in Central Asia, Istanbul, or an Arizona Indian Reservation, it will strike many chords. The plot was very "realistic," a little hard-hearted, a little too sad for me. No happy ending. No lives intertwined at the end--all the characters go their separate ways.

One of them is paid off. Cash money to go away. Such things happen, but it is not very admirable, let's put it that way. Of course, perhaps that is the message of "This Is Not Civilization." Americans can be jerks.

I missed having a sympathetic American character.

I found the Kyrgyz more sympathetically drawn, which is nice in a way, but again sort of frustrating. I wished, in the end, for a little more complexity, and a little more development in the end. But the story of a doomed romance between a Kyrgyz woman and an American man is compelling, and the plot moves along.

Most of the action really takes place in Istanbul, and since we visited most of the sites in the novel, it brought back a lot of memories.

So, if you are interested in Central Asia, Turkey, or Arizona, add "This Is Not Civilization" to your own summer reading list. If you are only interested on the level of the story of a romance, be prepared to be frustrated at the end.

A good first novel, with the promise of better ones to come.