Lucky by Gibsons author Kathy Para is a gritty, unflinching novel that follows the blood-soaked path of a photojournalist, Anika, in a Middle Eastern war zone.
Anika is all spit and vinegar. As a Canadian freelancer for the news media she scorns being an embedded journalist in favour of pushing into the enemy camp, telling their side of the story and maybe getting the photo that will help end the war.
Ani is a character who must seek the truth; she operates on adrenalin and a certain bitterness at the world. On her travels she meets Viva, a Lebanese Christian who becomes her best friend and translator and Alex, a journalist, who becomes her lover. She will coax them both into a dangerous mission. But Viva has another agenda and that's where it all goes wrong.
On her return to Vancouver, Ani struggles with grisly memories and post-traumatic stress that she attacks with vodka and diazepam. Her shrink is no help; her friendship with another journalist, Levi, threatens to go sour.
This is not bedtime reading, folks. Ani's hell is described in brilliant, lucid prose by the author, but it is still hell and the reader will suffer along with Ani. Such is the power of the book.
When the author launched her novel in Gibsons last week, she told the audience that she had always been drawn to the dark side, that her attraction to edginess is often a male author's role. Her hope was to show the dark extremes from a woman's point of view. Though Para had never travelled to Iraq or other countries mentioned in the book, her research was extensive.
She first became interested in Syria and Lebanon after meeting the owners of a coffee shop in Gibsons, a few years ago, and hearing their stories told so far away from their origins. A CBC documentary on war journalists sparked further interest and she used her working knowledge of photography to craft a story.
"All story is metaphor," she told the audience, and story is what she does best.
Though Para had already appeared at the Vancouver International Writers' Festival, the Gibsons launch in Para's hometown was a big one for her publisher.
Lucky was a winner selected from 60 entries in the Mother Tongue Publishers Search for the Great BC Novel contest, explained publisher Mona Fertig. Lucky is available for $21.95 from the publisher at www.mothertonguepublishing.com andfrom local bookstores.