Douglas Braithwaite is an American aviator and managing director of an airline flying humanitarian aid from Kenya to war-ravaged Sudan. Quinette Hardin is an evangelical Christian from Iowa whose human rights group works to redeem slaves from Arab raiders. Fitzhugh Martin is a multiracial Kenyan seeking a calling that will rejuvenate his directionless life. These and other characters populate Philip Caputo's riveting novel that describes the classic confrontation between Westerners and the Third World, people who go forth with solid commitments to human rights but find themselves plunged into a kind of moral corruption for which they are ill prepared.
Braithwaite and Hardin are passionate idealists who deeply believe in their crusades, but their strengths are their weaknesses, and in the cauldron of modern Africa, circumstances conspire with their flaws to cause their sense of mission to curdle into self-righteous zealotry and greed, leading them to conspiracy and murder.
This is a novel with plenty of action, three strong romances, two of them interracial, and some wonderful characters: bush pilots, Sudanese warlords, an Englishwoman straight out of Out of Africa, and an ambitious CNN reporter. Caputo has a strong sense of his chosen territory, and the result is a novel that is gripping and thoughtful - a cautionary tale for Americans of the 21st century.
"Caputo may have set out to write an epic parable about the dangers of uncritical belief, but he ended up with, quite simply, a great story." (The New Yorker)
"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)
"A miracle.... You can hardly conceive of a more affecting reading experience." (The Houston Chronicle)
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Overlong and Dull
Those fans of Philip Caputo's Vietnam memoir, A Rumor of War, will not find the same taut prose and carefully chosen phrasing in this overlong effort. This book is self-indulgent in the way of a New Yorker magazine article--nothing is deemed too tangential to be included, so the plot suffers and the listener has to plow through hours of tedium to get to the interesting stuff. There are too many characters to keep straight and certain stories are simply not integrated into the overall story. A condensed version of this book would, oddly, have a better impact, although if you are interested in learning everything you could possibly know about the problems in the Sudan, this is the book for you. Caputo is a journalist, and this is more a report than a novel. As for the vocal performance, it was outstanding, so that's a plus.
Acts of Faith
This story is an in-depth study of two basic areas. One, a deeply felt evangelical obsession to bring salvation to an African culture that has more pressing needs, like food. The locals are starving, war weary, and easy victims of the religious beliefs. Second, the relief workers are, in some ways, philanthropic in their righteous efforts to fulfill the medical and nutritional needs. However, they’re in it for the money. The cast of characters which includes bush pilots, missionaries, aid workers, etc, is prolific; you’ll have a hard time keeping track of them. Some are relevant to the plot, some are not.
Ticks, mosquitos, spiders … oh my.
The story is a documentary-fictional-drama, if there is such a thing. None the less, no happy ending. Educational, the persistent famine and constant struggle for life itself is startling, depressing, and unimaginable. A thirty hour audiobook, this is a long story, and I was compelled to fast forward through some sections. Took me a few chapters to get into the cadence of Stefan Rudnicki, the narrator. However, he ultimately does a passable job. If you have interest in the Sudan or Africaa culture in general, I’m sure you will find the story gripping.