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In the Kingdom of Men
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Here is the first thing you need to know about me: I'm a barefoot girl from red-dirt Oklahoma, and all the marble floors in the world will never change that.Here is the second thing: that young woman they pulled from the Arabian shore, her hair tangled with mangrove--my husband didn't kill her, not the way they say he did. 1967. Gin Mitchell knows a better life awaits her when she marries hometown hero Mason McPhee. Raised in a two-room shack by her Oklahoma grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, Gin never believed that someone like Mason, a handsome college boy, the pride of Shawnee, would look her way. And nothing can prepare her for the world she and Mason step into when he takes a job with the Arabian American Oil company in Saudi Arabia. In the gated compound of Abqaiq, Gin and Mason are given a home with marble floors, a houseboy to cook their meals, and a gardener to tend the sandy patch out back. Even among the veiled women and strict laws of shariah, Gin's life has become the stuff of fairy tales. She buys her first swimsuit, she pierces her ears, and Mason gives her a glittering diamond ring. But when a young Bedouin woman is found dead, washed up on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Gin's world closes in around her, and the one person she trusts is nowhere to be found. Set against the gorgeously etched landscape of a country on the cusp of enormous change, In the Kingdom of Men abounds with sandstorms and locust swarms, shrimp peddlers, pearl divers, and Bedouin caravans--a luminous portrait of life in the desert. Award-winning author Kim Barnes weaves a mesmerizing, richly imagined tale of Americans out of their depth in Saudi Arabia, a marriage in peril, and one woman's quest for the truth, no matter what it might cost her.

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Street Date:
05/29/2012
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780307958372
ASIN:
B0067TGV9C
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APA Citation (style guide)

Kim Barnes. (2012). In the Kingdom of Men. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Kim Barnes. 2012. In the Kingdom of Men. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Kim Barnes, In the Kingdom of Men. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Kim Barnes. In the Kingdom of Men. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Kim Barnes is the author of two memoirs and two previous novels, including A Country Called Home, which received the 2009 PEN Center USA Literary Award in fiction and was named a best book of 2008 by The Washington Post, the Kansas City Star, and The Oregonian. She is the recipient of the PEN/Jerard Fund Award for an emerging woman writer of nonfiction, and her first memoir, In the Wilderness, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work has appeared in a number of publications and anthologies, including The New York Times; MORE magazine; The Oprah Magazine; Good Housekeeping; Fourth Genre; The Georgia Review; Shenandoah; and the Pushcart Prize anthology. Barnes is a professor of writing at the University of Idaho and lives with her husband, the poet Robert Wrigley, on Moscow Mountain.



      • name: Kim Barnes
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In the Kingdom of Men
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Here is the first thing you need to know about me: I'm a barefoot girl from red-dirt Oklahoma, and all the marble floors in the world will never change that.
Here is the second thing: that young woman they pulled from the Arabian shore, her hair tangled with mangrove--my husband didn't kill her, not the way they say he did.

1967. Gin Mitchell knows a better life awaits her when she marries hometown hero Mason McPhee. Raised in a two-room shack by her Oklahoma grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, Gin never believed that someone like Mason, a handsome college boy, the pride of Shawnee, would look her way. And nothing can prepare her for the world she and Mason step into when he takes a job with the Arabian American Oil company in Saudi Arabia. In the gated compound of Abqaiq, Gin and Mason are given a home with marble floors, a houseboy to cook their meals, and a gardener to tend the sandy patch out back. Even among the veiled women and strict laws of shariah, Gin's life has become the stuff of fairy tales. She buys her first swimsuit, she pierces her ears, and Mason gives her a glittering diamond ring. But when a young Bedouin woman is found dead, washed up on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Gin's world closes in around her, and the one person she trusts is nowhere to be found.
Set against the gorgeously etched landscape of a country on the cusp of enormous change, In the Kingdom of Men abounds with sandstorms and locust swarms, shrimp peddlers, pearl divers, and Bedouin caravans--a luminous portrait of life in the desert. Award-winning author Kim Barnes weaves a mesmerizing, richly imagined tale of Americans out of their depth in Saudi Arabia, a marriage in peril, and one woman's quest for the truth, no matter what it might cost her.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Jay Trachtenberg, The Austin Chronicle
      • content: "Seldom has a book drawn me into its clutches as quickly as this one did. By the second sentence I was hooked on the first person account of Virginia Mae Mitchell . . . With a compelling narrative that never flags, we are quickly transported from the dusty, red clay plains to the seemingly infinite desert sandscapes of Saudi Arabia . . . From the waves of numbing heat and the vastness of the shimmering desert to blinding sandstorms, Biblical locust invasions, and the insidious, stifling boredom found within the confines of Mad Men-era Americana in the midst of an alien culture, Barnes makes the city of Abqaiq come alive."
      • premium: False
      • source: Zoë Ferraris, San Francisco Chronicle
      • content: "With courage and zest, Kim Barnes's novel In the Kingdom of Men takes an intimate look at . . . the rarified and harshly beautiful world of eastern Saudi Arabia. . . . Her Americans are loud and sharp and leaping from the page, casually refilling their cocktail glasses and whooping it up at the Beachcomber's Ball, some joyfully, some desperately, but all clinging to their own habits while betraying a general disconnection from--and disregard for--the Arabia all around them. And that disregard leads to the dark, tragic heart of the novel. . . . Within these lyrical pages is a story well worth investigating."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kimberly Marlowe Harnett, The Seattle Times
      • content: "Drawn with skill and filled with evocative period detail . . . the plot is unfurled like a rich carpet, rolling out over a vast space before it gently settles and fills every corner. Barnes . . . gets more motion and feeling into a deceptively plain paragraph than many novelists can cram into a chapter. She ensures that Gin's evolution is authentic, a wary, quiet observer and survivor who plumbs the depths of her new world with heart and courage. The women who populate this novel are all heroic in their various ways, a wonderful juxtaposition alongside this man's world build by oil money."
      • premium: False
      • source: Laura Albritton, Houston Chronicle
      • content: "Barnes regales us with the exploits of her high-spirited protagonist, Virginia 'Gin' McPhee, who follows her husband Mason from Texas to the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. . . . Energetic and fast paced . . . [Barnes] does an excellent job of conjuring the sights, smells and heat of Saudi Arabia. She also has an astute understanding of the subtle, persistent pull of homesickness that lurks beneath the glamour of expatriate life."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kassten Alonso, The Oregonian
      • content: "Barnes's dramatic powers are sure-footed and surely lyrical . . . An ambitious amalgam of sexism, racism, corporate colonialism, culture clash, class issues, religion, love and marriage, grief and loss."
      • premium: False
      • source: Alice Gregory, The Boston Globe
      • content: "Arresting . . . A richly wrought historical novel . . . Barnes seems incapable of writing a lazy sentence. It would be easy enough to enjoy her novel for its images alone--Gin learning to roast coffee beans over an open fire and milk camels straight into enamel bowls; the local children who line their eyes with kohl and drip with precious stones--but its feats are more than just descriptive. We have here the portrait of a woman whose ambitions outsize the time and place she lives, and also of what happens to a marriage when taken out of a familiar context. In the Kingdom of Men, in many ways, is a close inspection of how radically a life can be rescaled, and how quickly. With a protagonist like this, Barnes could have set her novel in a single room, and we'd keep reading."
      • premium: False
      • source: Pam Houston, More Magazine
      • content: "Kim Barnes has created a heroine for the ages in Gin McPhee--fierce, sad and tenacious, a self-described 'barefoot girl from red-dirt Oklahoma' who is consumed with the desire to see and know everything going on outside the country-club-esque compound in the vast Arabian Desert where, against all odds, she has found herself living. In the Kingdom of Men is a gripping thriller that plays out amid the oil-inflected relationships of the Americans and the Saudis (further complicated by the Bedouins and the Indians who serve them both) in the moody landscape of the Arabian frontier."
      • premium: False
      • source: Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
      • content: "Barnes brings her own childhood struggles with a strict, isolating Pentecostalism to her enrapturing third novel about
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from April 30, 2012
        Barnes’s latest (after A Country Called Home) is an immersive and bracing exploration of one woman’s search for freedom amid repression. Suffocated by the patriarchal strictures of her 1960s evangelical Oklahoma home, Virginia Mitchell elopes with the noble Mason McPhee. They move first to Texas, where Mason works on an oil rig, and then to Saudi Arabia, where he is fast-tracked for management at Aramco. Gin bristles against the comfortable but circumscribed lives of the Aramco wives—suspended between the libertine sexual mores of the boozy expat community and the sexless, draconian prohibitions of the Saudi virtue police. When Mason organizes the Bedouin workers against the company’s abuses and stumbles onto a deadly coverup, Gin must brave a wilderness of corporate lawlessness to save him. Gin is a delightful heroine whose tenacity animates those around her, a quality that lays the groundwork for an extraordinary adventure and unsettling conclusion. Barnes deftly teases humanity out of corruption and hypocrisy, and her language is finely wrought and her pacing masterful—Gin’s story develops languidly, then draws taut as the stakes rise. Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand, Brick House Literary.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        June 1, 2012
        When her husband Mason gets a job with Aramco, Oklahoman Gin McPhee moves from small-town life to a wider--and wilder--world of privilege, corruption and Middle Eastern geopolitics in the 1960s. Raised by her strict Methodist grandfather after her parents died, Gin begins to define herself by an attitude of rebellion. One form this rebellion takes is to date Mason McPhee, the local Golden Boy, who quickly impregnates her in the back of a sedan. Although, much to their sorrow, the child dies, Mason does the honorable thing by marrying Gin and then, after briefly working on oil rigs in Oklahoma and Texas, accepts a position with Aramco in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. There, while Mason is working two-week shifts out in the desert, Gin finds herself getting acquainted with bored and blase women such as Candy Fullerton, wife of the district manager, and Ruthie Doucet, who warns Gin about "uppity" houseboys and orients her about what behaviors women are not allowed to engage in outside the compound within whose walls they live. The rules include women not driving, not visiting the suqs and most of all, not going outside the gates alone. True to her rebellious nature, Gin begins to change in the exotic environment, befriending her "houseboy," a mature man named Yash, as well as Abdullah, a Bedouin with a degree in petroleum engineering. At first Mason is content with his new job--or at least content with the money that comes with it--but soon he uncovers evidence of a corrupt scheme in which both Americans and Saudis are implicated. Stressed by what to do with this information, he finds his relationship with Gin deteriorating and then becomes implicated in the murder of a young Arabian woman. Barnes writes poetically and intensely about personal conflict and subtly informs the reader about continuing Western misunderstandings of Middle Eastern culture.

        COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        May 1, 2012

        Barnes's (A Country Called Home) latest novel is about a girl, Gin, who trades on her rural Oklahoma life for a journey to 1967 Saudi Arabia. Orphaned at seven and forced to live with her strict religious grandfather, she ends up pregnant during her rebellious high school years. Her new husband, Mason, gets a job working for an oil company, first in Houston, TX, and then in Saudi Arabia. The couple move to a walled-in American compound in the middle of the desert. Gina's first-person narration is meant to show her as independent, progressive, and at times incredibly naive as she tries to adjust both to life in the compound and in the new country. Her bouts of cultural confusion, along with oil politics, lead to a crisis. VERDICT Barnes writes beautifully, but she isn't able to cobble together a coherent story. The novel's first third gets off to a strong start, but the cinematic descriptions of the desert don't make up for the weak characterization and unbelievable adventure plot. The book depends on Gin's narration, but this reader found her character inconsistent and contrived, the secondary characters no more than plot devices. Not recommended.--Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. of Maryland, St. Mary's City

        Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from May 15, 2012
        Barnes (A Country Called Home, 2008) brings her own childhood struggles with a strict, isolating Pentecostalism to her enrapturing third novel about a tough, fearless Oklahoma girl raised with religious austerity and misogyny, who finds herself living in a luxurious yet oppressive American oil company enclave in 1970 in Saudi Arabia. As a girl, Virginia, called Gin, hides the forbidden books she loves. As a teen, she gets pregnant. Honest, fair Mason promptly shelves his college plans, marries her, and goes to work on a Houston oil rig, which secures them a ticket to country-club-like Abqaig. There this radiantly attractive, generous, yet sorrowful couple runs afoul of the oil company's harsh prohibitions against treating Arabs as equals andof Muslim restrictions for women, all of which baffle and enrage Gin. Barnes animates a magnetizing cast of cosmopolitan characters, lingers over descriptions of food and clothing, dramatizes cultural contrasts and sexual tension, and brings this intense and compassionate novel of corporate imperialism, prejudice, corruption, and yearning to such gorgeously vivid, suspenseful life that the story's darkness is perfectly balanced by the keen wit and blazing pleasure of its telling. A veritable Mad Men of the desert, with the depth of a Graham Greene novel.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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Here is the first thing you need to know about me: I'm a barefoot girl from red-dirt Oklahoma, and all the marble floors in the world will never change that.
Here is the second thing: that young woman they pulled from the Arabian shore, her hair tangled with mangrove--my husband didn't kill her, not the way they say he did.

1967. Gin Mitchell knows a better life awaits her when she marries hometown hero Mason McPhee. Raised in a two-room shack by her Oklahoma grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, Gin never believed that someone like Mason, a handsome college boy, the pride of Shawnee, would look her way. And nothing can prepare her for the world she and Mason step into when he takes a job with the Arabian American Oil company in Saudi Arabia. In the gated compound of Abqaiq, Gin and Mason are given a home with marble floors, a houseboy to cook their meals, and a gardener to tend the sandy patch out back. Even among the veiled women and strict...

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