“Delightful, humorous and shocking … A page-turner filled with astute commentary on American expats, the legacy of colonialism, and white feminism.” — Emily Burack, Alma
“Entertaining and insightful… Crouch presses her female characters to their limits, reaching notes of genuine triumph without sacrificing the wry comedy, while the red dust and heat of Namibia radiate off the page.” — Publishers Weekly
If your spouse asked you to move to the remote African desert, would you? In Embassy Wife by Katie Crouch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Amanda Evans concedes in order to mend her troubled marriage. Then, her life hits the fan in this hilarious political satire.
Amanda is a bigwig in a Silicon Valley tech firm, and her husband, Mark, is a long-languishing assistant professor at Santa Clara. When Mark receives a Fulbright scholarship to study the Namibian Holocaust and becomes an advisor to the U.S. Embassy, Amanda resentfully packs their nine-year-old daughter, Meg, and their household possessions, and moves to the desert.
NEW COUNTRY, MISMATCHED FRIENDSHIP
At the international school Meg attends, Amanda meets fellow American expat Persephone Wilder, a career State Department wife, whose husband, Adam, is on track for an ambassadorship. Persephone views herself as the perfect embassy wife who will follow her husband wherever he’s posted to climb the ambassadorial ladder, so long as she can self-medicate with booze.
After previous dull assignments, Persephone truly loves Africa. In this tiny, incestuous U.S. outpost in the Kalahari, Persephone is the queen of gossip. She barters it to keep her title as the queen bee of the embassy families and to bolster her husband’s success. She takes pity on homesick Amanda, making the woman her latest project and instructing her about the culture, the country and the sticky politics of Namibia. But Amanda doesn’t give a hoot. She simply wants to return to the U.S.
Also attending the school is Taimi, the nine-year-old daughter of Mila and Josephat Shilongo, the Minister of Transportation. Persephone can’t stand the striking Amazonian Mila because her husband has the hots for Mila. Conversely, Mila fascinates Amanda. Amanda embraces their mismatched friendship and their daughters’ bond excites her.
LONG-KEPT SECRETS AND REBELLION
As time passes, Amanda’s husband becomes more secretive and withdrawn. Unbeknownst to her, Mark’s true motive in relocating to Namibia wasn’t the Fulbright. Twenty years ago, he served in the Peace Corps and was involved in a tragic bus accident. The government deported him to the states against his will, and he never knew the fate of his African girlfriend. Mark has returned to Namibia to find her and make amends. This secret is just the tip of the iceberg.
The hysteria begins as the love-hate triangular relationship between Amanda, Persephone and Mila develops, shifting like the sand dunes in the hot winds. Each woman is talented in their own right, yet the embassy system has subordinated them to men who border on incompetence; Mark is a lazy professor, Adam is a lousy lawyer, and Josephat is a corrupt politician. Despite their cultural differences, these women bond and jointly rebel against the patriarchal system and their husbands. With the turn of each page, readers will relish in their complicated adventures as the fireworks begin.
WRY EXPOSÉ ON FORIEGN POLITICS
Buried within the light-hearted story of the ups-and-downs of friendship, parenthood and marriage, is a wry exposé on foreign politics under the former president’s regime. In the afterward, Crouch mentions she lived in Namibia and drew upon her experiences to create this contemporary comedy of political errors. She takes a clear shot at “the orange president’s” inability to pronounce the name of the country (“Nambia”) as well as his referring to the county as a “s***hole.” These demeaning remarks figure prominently in the climax of this wacky insider examination of the Foreign Service.
During the sweltering days of summer, Embassy Wife will transport readers to an exotic location that few will ever visit. Readers will hear the lion’s roar, feel the heat radiating off the sun-parched earth, and see the purple and gold sunsets. Sadly, like the embassy families, readers will never truly understand the political and cultural tensions existing in this former apartheid country, but Crouch’s novel is the next best thing.
Where do the Rhino and Nazi memorabilia come in? There are no spoilers here. You’ll have to read this entertaining book. You won’t be able to put it down.