Monday, October 29, 2012
Try The Morgue: A Novel by Eva Maria Staal
From a real-life female gunrunner comes this international bestseller and unforgettable literary debut.
Ten years ago, "Eva Maria Staal" kept a gun in her purse. It was a present from her boss, Jimmy Liu, the international arms dealer extraordinaire with a taste for high-class male escorts. Together, Jimmy and his devoted associate traveled the world's most dangerous hotspots, closing multimillion-dollar deals with ruthless warlords and corrupt generals: Stinger missiles in Karachi; AK-47s in Chechnya; hollow-point bullets in Islamabad. But burdened by her conscience, Staal finally got out, married an architect, and had a baby.
Now, assailed with memories of her secret life, Staal must reconcile her suburban present with a repressed but ineradicable past, one that blasts a hole so deep she doesn't even know how to love her own daughter. Will she ever be able to forgive herself for the terrible wrongs that she profited from? Grappling with the answer, Staal takes us on an adrenaline-packed ride through an underworld so perilous that no one emerges unscathed.
Wow! What a great book! I thoroughly enjoyed reading Try The Morgue. I started it during my lunch break the other day and wound up sneak reading pieces of it throughout the work day. I just couldn't wait to get home to finish the rest of it. This book captivated me from the start - a woman who used to be a gunrunner struggling to come to terms with her exciting, but dangerous past; all the while trying to accept her present day life as a stay-at-home mom in suburbia. Tell me that doesn't sound interesting? Because you know it does - and let me just tell you, it really was.
Eva Maria Staal was a gunrunner for Jimmy Liu, an infamous arms dealer. She was his managing director, which meant that she was pretty much his right-hand woman. She traveled with him, or for him, and would even lock down deals. She knew about the weapons being traded, the war lords they interacted with, and the ugly reality that her life would always be a lonely one, as long as she continued to be a gunrunner. So, one day, fed up with the craziness that was her boss, Jimmy Liu, she decided to call it a day. She phoned her on-off again boyfriend Martin, and the next thing you know: they got married, bought a new house, and Eva Maria was taking her daughter, Nella, to dance class. However, this new phase in her life was a bit troubling to Eva Maria - she didn't know how to fit into it. She kept having flashbacks to her past misadventures with Jimmy and even found her old glock hidden in her linen closet. To top it all off, she wound up reconnecting with a man from her past - he was Jimmy's toyboy and apparently now he was her daughter's best friend's father. Talk about an unhappy blast from her past. With so many reminders of her old life popping up all around her, Eva Maria was starting to realize just how difficult it might be to let go of her past.
Staal has written an engaging, quick-paced novel that shows us what a strong, independent, and resourceful woman can look like. Her story is suspenseful, exciting, and captivating. We get to learn all about Eva Maria's experiences as a gunrunner and as a mother - the fascinating differences between both of these worlds is beyond vast. On the one hand, we have Eva Maria traveling to war torn countries and getting shot at; and on the other hand, we have her doing laundry and making play dates for her daughter. How crazy is that? From the gritty, seedy underbelly of the underworld to the routine and steady domesticity of suburbia - how did she even wrap her head around it all? I know I wondered how she was truly able to cope with it all. And part of me wondered how much of the story was actually true.
You see, Eva Maria Staal is a pseudonym employed by a woman who actually was a gunrunner in her former life. In Try The Morgue, her debut novel, she has decided to spill the beans so to speak - not just about her illegal trade, but also her life as a mom, wife, and homemaker. I think knowing that the book is based on real life, makes the story even more fascinating to read. I found myself extremely interested in the complex love-hate relationship Eva Maria had with her former boss, Jimmy Liu - I could have read about them for days. As for Martin and Nella, I found myself feeling a bit lackluster about them, but only because it seemed as if Eva Maria felt that way about them, too. Then again, perhaps her reluctance at showing so much emotion toward her family stemmed from the fact that for so long, she was alone and just not used to expressing her emotions (unless you count Jimmy, and even then their relationship should be left for a therapist to define.) Of course, this is a woman who accidentally shot an innocent bystander and then ran away, so I think its completely understandable if issues with trust and relationships tended to crop up. At the end of the day, I found Eva Maria to be a memorable character and I thoroughly enjoyed reading all about her life in two worlds.
Try The Morgue is a great read that I will not forget. I would most definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone looking for their next, new read - you will not be disappointed!
Thank you to Liveright Publishing Corp. (an imprint of W.W. Norton & Co.) for providing me with a copy of this book!