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With her ninth novel, National Book Award winner Alice McDermott attempts to understand the role that the wives of American soldiers played in the Vietnam War. The book begins in 1963 Saigon, with Tricia, a shy newlywed, whose lawyer husband is working for Navy intelligence as a “civilian advisor.” She soon finds herself forming an unlikely alliance with Charlene, a seasoned military wife and mother of three, who shows her how to support her husband without being subservient. Tricia struggles to find her own purpose until she and Charlene begin “helping” the people of Vietnam. It’s not until 60 years later, when Tricia is contacted by someone from her past, that she begins to question her own culpability in the conflict. Absolution is a moving story about the obligation, sacrifice, and regret that comes with living on the periphery of history. —Shannon Carlin

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