INTO THE SUN

Deni Ellis Béchard

Kabul—Ten Years After 9/11: After a car explodes in the city, a Japanese-American journalist discovers that its passengers were acquaintances—three fellow expats who had formed an unlikely love triangle—and becomes convinced that a deeper story lies behind the moment of violence. The investigation that follows takes the journalist from Kabul to Louisiana, Maine, Québec, and Dubai, from love to jealousy to hate—and acutely reveals how the lives of individuals overseas have become inseparable from the larger story of America’s imperial misadventures.

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Kabul—Ten Years After 9/11: After a car explodes in the city, a Japanese-American journalist discovers that its passengers were acquaintances—three fellow expats who had formed an unlikely love triangle—and becomes convinced that a deeper story lies behind the moment of violence. The investigation that follows takes the journalist from Kabul to Louisiana, Maine, Québec, and Dubai, from love to jealousy to hate—and acutely reveals how the lives of individuals overseas have become inseparable from the larger story of America’s imperial misadventures.

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  • Milkweed Editions
  • Paperback
  • September 2016
  • 456 Pages
  • 9781571311146

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About Deni Ellis Béchard

Deni Ellis Béchard is the author of the novel Vandal Love, winner of the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book; Cures for Hunger, a memoir about growing up with his father, who robbed banks; and Of Bonobos and Men, winner of the 2015 Nautilus Book Award for investigative journalism. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including the LA Times, Salon, Pacific Standard, and Foreign Policy, and he has reported from India, Iraq, Colombia, Rwanda, the Congo, and Afghanistan.

Praise

“Béchard is the rare writer who knows the secret to telling the true story.” —Marlon James

Into the Sun is the sort of book I’m always hungry for—the serious novel in which the guns literally go off. Béchard makes me think of Graham Greene and Robert Stone, which is heady company, indeed.” —Richard Ford

“A ferociously intelligent and intensely gripping portrait of the expatriate community in Kabul—the idealists, mercenaries, aid workers and journalists circling around a war offering them promises of purpose, redemption, or cash, while the local Afghans in their orbit negotiate the ever-changing and ever-dangerous politics of the latter stages of the American war in Afghanistan. Brilliant.” —Phil Klay

“Ambitious, elegant and filled with a kind of intelligence. Béchard explores the culture of the war zone, creating a compelling picture of that dark and turbulent place.” —Roxana Robinson

Discussion Questions

1. How did the opening description of Kabul prepare you for the story?

2. What qualities give the narrator both authority and credibility to fill in the gaps of this complicated story?

3. How does desire—controlled, indulged, denied—determine the course of the characters’ experience in Afghanistan? What desire do they have in common? Who comes closest to achieving their deepest desire?

4. Consider the adversarial male/female relationships in the story. How do they reflect the greater struggle for power in the world?

5. How did the main characters’ stories evolve as facts about the car bombing were revealed?

6. Which character’s story changed the least? The most?

7. As the story of the bombing circles back upon itself, how does each new account reveal more about a character’s motivation?

8. “How you take in the world changes how others see you” (152). How does Idris use how others see him to accomplish his goals?

9. Sexual assault plays a key role in the lives of women in the book.

10. How do the consequences of rape vary between these cultures? How are they the same?

11. Consider how sexual violence shapes women’s lives in both cultures.

12. Frank encourages Shadiqa “to use everything at your disposal and not be shy about it.” Does her behavior qualify as sexual harassment?

13. “War is a collision of fictions … everyone [gets] caught in the freedom of invention” (136).

14. Is it reasonable to expect unbiased news coverage of war?

15. Is it possible to discern the truth without subjecting it to our own filters?

16. How does the book’s portrayal of thrill-seeking writers affect your assessment of journalism from the front lines?

17. Did Into the Sun change or reinforce your view of America’s involvement in Afghanistan?