Eclipse (Stephanie)

Eclipse by Richard North Patterson (384 pgs, Henry Holt & Co, 2009) is a book I selected through the Amazon Vine program. I choose this book because I’ve read a lot of Patterson’s thrillers and have always liked them. This one is no exception. I am using this as a selection for the 2009 ARC Reading Challenge and The Pub ‘09 Challenge.

In a West African village, Marissa Brand Okari watched her husband prepare to risk his life for the act of speaking out.

Damon Pierce knew Marissa Brand in college. Although their time together was brief, he fell hopelessly in love with her. But Marissa wanted other things in life. Most importantly, she wanted to make a difference in the world. And that is why she left the country to marry Bobby Okari, a novelist and activist from the (fictional) country of Luandia, located in Western Africa.

Through the years, Damon and Marissa kept in touch, and on the night his divorce was final, Damon emailed her to vent a little about his life. But when he received a reply, he had no idea what was in store for him. “Seven nights ago, Marisa began, “I saw the corpses of three oil workers hanging from a tree.”

Because rallies and gatherings had been outlawed during the nighttime hours in Luandia, Bobby Okari made the decision to hold a massive protest rally at the moment of the solar eclipse. The peaceful Asari tribe, under the leadership of Okari, was to protest the country’s involvement with PetroGlobal oil, a US firm that drilled in the petroleum-rich country. The riches that oil brings to a country had not reached the Asari’s. They were poor, and things were getting worse. The oil drilling had destroyed many of the natural resources the Asari’s needed to survive. And Bobby Okari was a very vocal activist.

But General Savior Karama, the country’s dictator, was none to happy with Okari. And as the protest began, the military came storming into the village and slaughtered every man, woman and child except for the Okari’s. Bobby was arrested for the murder of the three oil men, and Marissa was left alone.

Because Damon was an international litigator who had successfully convicted war criminals during Kosavo, he was in the position to help the Okaris. Because he was still in love with Marissa, he vowed to do what he could to help defend Bobby, even though it would put his own life in jeopardy.

Patterson has created a very realistic and depressing scenario with Luandia and PetroGlobal Oil. He is a very gifted storyteller, although far from unbiased on the topic. There is a very intricately weaved plot that includes not only a dictator, a rogue military colonel, a US firm that has turned a blind eye on a rapidly escalating problem in Luandia, but also American investors in oil futures.

In today’s world, the characters are very believable. Okari sees himself as the next Nelson Mandela, but he is risking not only his life, but that of his wife’s and friends in the process. One of the many questions that come up is it worth risking your life for something you believe in? And is it worth risking your loved ones as well?

Pierce is smart. And he works to unravel the mystery of what really happened to the three oil men. Some of the best parts of the book are Damon’s cross-examinations of witnesses. You can see the sheer unfairness of the allegations, and the hand of a cruel dictator. But because Karama controls the oil, he is given a free hand to rule as he wishes, regardless of the human rights violations that are being perpetrated on a daily basis.

At times cynical and depressing, Eclipse is a well-written indictment of the US involvement in oil-bearing countries. The farther you read, you can tell there is no way a happy ending will be in store for the Okari’s. But heartbreaking as it may be, Eclipse is a suburb thriller. Fast-paced and a real page-turner, you want to read faster just to know the fate of Bobby Okari. The only negative I see is that a few of the underlying causes go unresolved. But I think that is Patterson’s way of saying this is what happens in real life. Nothing is cut and dried. And life isn’t fair. Get used to it. Do I recommend the book? Yes, definitely, but be prepared for a lot of politics and some scenes that are really hard to take. Eclipse is the type of book that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned. 4.5/5

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