How do people lose their souls? When this riveting novel, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, begins, that question is a literal one. By the end, it’s a moral one. In 1996, Jackie Scott, a journalist stationed in Haiti during the final days of the U.S. occupation, tells her colleague Tom Harrington that she suspects a voodoo priest has stolen her soul. Two years later, Jackie’s body is found on the side of the road. Some claim that she was killed by the devil. The truth is more disturbing: National Book Award winner Shacochis tells a tangled story that starts in Croatia during World War II, as a boy witnesses his father’s beheading, before it jumps to Istanbul during the 1980s, as a teenage girl falls for a Muslim with jihadist ties. By the time the tale catches up with Tom, who returns to Haiti to investigate Jackie’s death, it has become a portrait of the blind fanaticism that seized Americans, Croatians, and Muslims in the years leading up to 9/11, with just as many twists and turns as John le Carré’s best work.
Having served as a reporter in Haiti himself, Shacochis understands the troubled characters who devote their lives to disappearing, whether, like him, they’re journalists who escape their families by going abroad, or radicals who take on double lives. If losing one’s soul can be blamed on voodoo, it can also happen to soldiers and spies who start to care more about the thrill of the mission than the cause they’re defending. History won’t remember all of these people, but then, as Shacochis writes, ”history walks on all of us…fading into obscurity, which is perhaps why Americans want little to do with history, why perhaps they hate it.” And yet Shacochis could make anyone fall in love with history. With this magnum opus, he’s earned his own little piece of it. A