by Debra Pickett
Sara Simone is a brilliant, ambitious TV reporter, specializing in getting grieving widows on camera, doing that “how do you feel?” interview. In Reporting Lives, Sara lucks into a huge story, which she’s sure is going to propel from her local news job in Chicago straight to the network. But, when she follows that story to the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, she finds herself unable to maintain her usual cool distance from tragedy. Instead of reporting the story, she walks away from it.
She finds herself literally directionless. Desperate to get out the slums she climbs on board the first bus she sees and winds up at a safari lodge in the Rift Valley, where tensions are escalating between radical Muslims coming in from the Somali border and the Western-tourism-oriented locals. When the high-end lodge is bombed and several of her new friends are killed, Sara finds herself now as the victim in a major news story. Helping the survivors of the bombing sort out their lives, she finds a kind of redemption, but she can’t shake the feeling that there must be more to do. Can she salvage the career she abandoned in the slums? Does she want to?
Arielle: What an interesting premise! I love the switcheroo on our protagonist. I do find a bit of a disconnect between the first and second paragraphs. The first feels like fun, women’s fiction. The second, serious literary fiction. If the book has some of both, these characteristics should infuse both paragraphs of the pitch. I’d also like to see descriptors that are more specific than “brilliant” and “ambitious”. Give us a little more flavor for our heroine.
David: I really like the idea of this story. Someone who goes from experiencing life at a distance, watching it, observing it, reporting on it, is forced to jump into the fray, hunker down in the trenches with the mud and the blood, and become the lead character in her story, instead of the onlooker. It also feels very contemporary, like Hurt Locker meets Reading Lolita in Tehran. But the style of the prose feels a little generic. A bit too book-reportish. For example, when you write ” the high-end lodge is bombed and several of her new friends are killed”, you take an incredibly dramatic, violent, and breathtaking scene and make it feel flat and lifeless. Too much tell, not enough show. “She finds a kind of redemption” seems vague to me. It’s an idea rather than an action. Too much in the head, not enough in the heart. I also don’t like this title very much. It doesn’t seem as unique and interesting and excellent as the story.