Set in a future where the threat of terrorism has seeped into everything, an American soldier finds himself at the vanguard of America's latest war. After a terrorist attack on the White House, America invades an African country in the Sahara. In the desert, the soldier begins to realize that memory itself can be used as a form of terrorism. There is love within him, but it is love for a woman he is not entirely sure is real. She had appeared miraculously when he was a boy growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, telling him things that turned his world upside-down. She had disappeared just as miraculously, leaving him to question his recollections and his sanity.
Years later, as a soldier in the war, he finds himself yearning for the woman and the impossible paradise she had described. In the Sahara, he sees horrors that seem to be the work of demons. After a year of war, his mind and soul are on the verge of collapse; by the time he sees the woman from his childhood marching through the desert, he has no choice but to surrender to his fantasies. In a world devastated by war and terrorism, only she gives him hope. When she again disappears, he is ready to move heaven and earth to find her. However, it is a quest that seems to have consequences for both his soul and America's.
Intimate Relations with Strangers is at once a twisted puzzle and a brutally honest exploration of the nature of reality, war, and love.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this profoundly disturbing debut, Bernard, a native of Grenada who moved to New York City as a child, uses elements of time travel, fantasy and classic mystery to tell a love story set in an age of terrorism. The U.S. is enmeshed in an endless, unwinnable war in Africa, the president has been assassinated and the citizenry deceived. One day, Bernard's African protagonist, known only as the little boy, witnesses a beaten and bloody young girl seemingly being born from the very bowels of the earth, a horrifying event that will haunt him throughout his life. Sent to war upon graduation from high school, the boy (now the soldier) is taken prisoner. He eventually escapes, and the government touts him as a hero—which the soldier resists. Meanwhile, the soldier instinctively understands that he has always loved the girl he saw born now that she's grown, that she's somehow connected to him from another life, another world. Readers will remember this powerful, fable-like work of protest long after they've turned the last page. (Sept.)
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"In this profoundly disturbing debut, Bernard...uses elements of time travel, fantasy and classic mystery to tell a love story set in an age of terrorism...Readers will remember this powerful, fable-like work of protest long after they've turned the last page."
-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)