Charles Holdefer The Contractor

ISBN 13: 9781579621735

The Contractor

3.36 avg rating
( 28 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9781579621735: The Contractor

The Contractor is the first novel to address the issue of American secret prisons in the war on terrorism. George Young, its narrator is a devoted family man and Gulf War veteran, who, when a hometown business venture flops, accepts work as a contracted civilian interrogator for the U.S. government. Soon he's overseas at a secret holding facility for suspected terrorists, a place called Omega.

The work pays well, but his personal life is crumbling. His wife with whom he is forbidden to talk about the work he does is becoming more and more enamoured of gin and tonic. Worse, a detainee dies in George's hands during a "routine" interrogation. Frightened and confused, the detainee repeatedly asks, "Who are you?" just before dying of an apparent heart attack. These words echo throughout the novel and send George on a painful journey of self-interrogation and discovery. In order to defend his country and his family, must George betray his humanity?

Weaving George's personal life into his professional work deepens this exploration of both mind and soul; of alienations that are startling, maddening, and saddening. Its power lies in the inevitable ways reasonable people can be led to do unreasonable things.

The denouement is both chilling and unforgettable. It puts a human face on depravity and the consequences felt by inquisitors as well as those they interrogate.

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About the Author:

CHARLES HOLDEFER'S two previous novels were well received satires: Apologies for Big Rod (1997) and Nice (2001). In The Contractor he explores a totally new terrain. He lives in France and teaches in the English department of the University of Poitiers and, for the last nine summers, at the University of Iowa's Summer Writing Festival.

Review:

An impressive and moving portrayal of the secret detention and interrogation system. --Margaret Satterthwaite, Director of The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, NYU Law School

George Young is a freelance interrogator working for the U.S. government at a top-secret island prison. His assignment: question suspected terrorists and find out whatever he can. It's not the most cheerful of jobs, but George is very good at it, and the money is great. Not so great is the reaction of his family-- wife, son, daughter-- who came with George to the island prison (code-named Omega) as part of a morale-boosting experiment. But it's plain to see that George's personal life is collapsing under him. And when a prisoner dies during interrogation, after repeatedly asking the question, Who are you? George realizes that, somewhere along the way, he has indeed lost sight of who he is and what sort of person he is supposed to be. Self-discovery stories are a dime a dozen, but this one is different than most of them. By placing this familiar theme in a new (and very timely) setting, Holdefer gives us additional layers of emotional depth: George isn't just trying to figure out who he is; he is trying to figure out what his country is, and whether he is a good guy or just another terrorist wearing a different suit of clothes. A compelling mix of thriller, psychodrama, and, yes, political commentary. --Starred Review Booklist

Stylish, fiercely funny and frightening --Kirkus Reviews

Stylish, fiercely funny and frightening --Kirkus Reviews

An impressive and moving portrayal of the secret detention and interrogation system. --Margaret Satterthwaite, Director of The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, NYU Law School

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