American Spy

Random. Feb. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780812998955. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812998962. F
OrangeReviewStarDEBUT Written in the form of a lengthy missive from a mother to her young sons, this intriguing first novel blends literary fiction with a Cold War-era spy story. When FBI special agent Marie is forced to flee the country with her children, she begins writing down her experiences as an African American female spy during the 1980s, when she was assigned to establish intimacy with Thomas Sankara, the hugely popular Burkina Faso president. Marie's account draws out the conflict between her government's directives and her own intense attraction to the charismatic Marxist leader. Wilkinson successfully makes events in Marie's past suspenseful, revealing details that seem natural rather than contrived. This story of espionage, told from the perspective of a woman of color, doesn't gloss over how family and personal relationships, as well as institutional racism and chauvinism, complicate a career in secret intelligence, raising questions about U.S. involvement in developing countries and the obstacles faced by women and minorities in law enforcement.
VERDICT Should be a popular book club selection. [See Prepub Alert, 8/6/18.]
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