By Bonnie Toews
It is not yet August 25th, 2010, when the interactive reading of ONE CHILD ends. In my hands is an advanced reader copy of this book. I know the whole story, and the story itself is a breathless experience outside of the multi-media experiment where readers get a new chapter each day online, along with news reports and videos that blur fact and fiction.
Frankly, despite this ambitious alternative to the way we read, I remain a book reviewer who prefers the feel of the book in my hands. It’s a relief to break away from the computer screen.
At first I read as many pages as I found time, but the other night, I reached a point in the story where I refused to put it down until I finished reading it. My first reaction at the end? Awe. I just put the book down and soaked in the revelation.
Jeff’s story crystallizes why soldiers repeatedly volunteer to return to the fighting, what their mission means to them. It’s something the public-at-large, through all its debating, doesn’t understand because they are not there, in their soldiers’ shoes. Now Jeff, like a documentary film producer, takes you there. His diligent research provides you with realistic surroundings and props to bring you into his virtual creation, first through the online interaction of the book’s daily events to its critical conclusion, and then in the book itself, where you can hold and savor that experience for as long as you want.
How does he achieve this magnificent work? With master storytelling.
The novel begins in the apartment of a shattered building in Kandahar, Afghanistan. An Afghani holds his 11-year-old daughter, Halima, asleep in his arms, while watching over her younger two sisters beside them. They sleep on the floor under a threadbare blanket. He doesn’t know how he is going to feed his daughters when the new day begins. Halima, awakens from a dream and tells him that someday she is going to change the world. Her father, not wanting to discourage her, tells her, “You changed my world, Halima. You made it so much better.”
This is plot one, about the Afghan family’s survival in a daily struggle to find enough food and water to stay alive in Kandahar.
In New York City, plot two involves a self-made billionaire, who meets an arms dealer and arranges to send defective weapons to the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. This illegal transaction will profit him by $35 million. He’s the typical Eastern European immigrant who, as a child, arrived destitute in America and grew up living by his own rules to become one of the richest men in the world. In his worship of money, he has made a business of manipulating the stock market. He’s also unforgiving and vengeful, and decides he will achieve the downfall of a Russian competitor who cheated him out of another deal he coveted. To ruin the Russian’s reputation as well as cause him significant financial loss, he must hire an ex-CIA black ops operative and his team to crash the U2 concert the Russian is sponsoring in Moscow.
Plot three focuses on an ambitious young trader in the billionaire’s company and his wife. Can he be as ruthless as he is brilliant to succeed in the rarified air of engineered wealth? And a journalist embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the young officer assigned to look out for him round out plot four.
Jeff Buick has raised the bar in the thriller genre. Not only does he entertain his readers with an intriguing mesh of thrilling subplots, he also brings them to a new level of understanding about the controversial war in Afghanistan. He represents every viewpoint, from the shadiest intention to the noblest desire. Every soldier who has served will find what they experienced told with great honesty. Every person who believes we should withdraw our troops will find confirmation, except for ONE CHILD.
Through the heavy gloom and deep intrigue that embraces Afghanistan, separate destinies march forward through July and August 2010 to converge one night that shocks the world and changes our perceptions. It all happens in ONE CHILD, an epiphany you can’t afford to miss.