John Livingston’s voluminous, multi-layered novel plays out against the backdrops of Valdosta, Georgia; Italy; and conflicts in the Middle East as the passions of love and war grip characters who must choose between life and death, love, loyalty, and vengeance.
The lone survivor of a family devastated by war, Palestinian George Safadi volunteers for a suicide mission targeting Israel’s prime minister. To achieve this, he must find an American Jewish woman to transfer a bomb-infused van supplied by the Naples Mafia to Jerusalem.
As Safadi befriends Janice and Regina, Baptist friends from Georgia vacationing in Venice to overcome personal losses, Safadi and Janice become attracted to each other. Believing Safadi is merely an automobile importer, Janice agrees to travel with the van.
Meanwhile, Israeli intelligence learns of the intended hit on Jerusalem and sends a senior agent to track down the terrorist and his unknowing accomplices. When the agent traces Regina back to Valdosta, another romance ensues.
Drawing on his strong background in Middle East history, Livingston artfully weaves historical facts and cultural details into this well-crafted novel. The author crafts an array of colorful characters, from Janice and Regina’s Valdosta relatives, to a rebellious pregnant teen, to a scarred, twitching man from the Palestinian Liberation Army whose bodily injuries represent “a history of the occupation.”
Livingston also adds touches of humor, often ignited by strong female characters. Additionally, the dialogue includes heartfelt soliloquies from individuals describing the devastation they suffered in wartime, from Safadi’s memory of a sister burned alive to the Mafia don’s loss of a son.
Some proofreading is needed, and less history of Middle Eastern conflicts would broaden the book’s appeal. The book’s latter part takes on a more rapid pace with an unexpected twist at the end.
Readers who enjoy a lengthy, but solid plot filled with love, loss and lies amidst war’s drama will be left pondering its evils and the lasting sorrows it leaves behind.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.