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In the Kingdom of Men

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,611 ratings  ·  450 reviews
Here is the first thing you need to know about me:  I’m a barefoot girl from red-dirt Oklahoma, and all the marble floors in the world will never change that.
Here is the second thing:  that young woman they pulled from the Arabian shore, her hair tangled with mangrove—my husband didn’t kill her, not the way they say he did.

   1967. Gin Mitchell knows a better life awaits h
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 29th 2012 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.42  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,611 ratings  ·  450 reviews

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Jacki (Julia Flyte)
Wow! This book starts so well. Ginny's voice as narrator is alive and engaging, her childhood is intriguing, there's the promise of a mystery concerning a drowned woman. But the liveliness doesn't last. Ginny is a self-centered character who is near impossible to like and the mystery takes forever to get going before being resolved in a sketchy way without any real answers.

The story is about Ginny's experience living in a compound in Saudi Arabia in 1967 while her husband works for an Arab-Ameri
Andi Stubbs
May 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Based on the awesome first paragraph of this book, I really had high hopes for it. But I really didn't like how the heroine of the story transformed so quickly into a booze-guzzling housewife, and I found myself bored about halfway through and struggled to finish it. The first paragraph discusses that her husband was accused of murder, but the murder doesn't happen until the very end of the book... and it feels like the author was desperate to wrap things up quickly, because it was a rushed and ...more
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a novel about Aramco, the oil company in Saudi Arabia with which I was an oil wife for five years. The story takes place in the late 1960s, about 12 years before my time. It is set in Abqaiq, where I lived for three months. So everything about it was really familiar to me.

The author does a very good job of describing life in an oil camp, and the odd sense of danger one feels most of the time while living in the Kingdom. She has great details. Sometimes I felt like she was overwriting, in
Sam Woodfield
So I'm a little confused about how I feel about this novel, being unsure if I enjoyed it or not, and thats quite an unusual feeling having just read a book - I normally know what I think and find it easy to say if I like it or not, but this has confused me.
The novel follows Gin McPhee and her husband Mason as they move from middle America to Arabia in the early days of oil drilling in the Gulf. As Mason is away for long periods on the rig, Gin has to adjust to life as an American wife in an Isla
Julie Christine
The first two sentences of In the Kingdom of Men give us a portrait of the narrator and the mystery she sets out to reveal:

Here is the first thing you need to know about me: I’m a barefoot girl from red-dirt Oklahoma, and all the marble floors in the world will never change that.
Here is the second thing: that young woman they pulled from the Arabian shore, her hair tangled with mangrove—my husband didn’t kill her, not the way they say he did.

It’s a powerful opening, one of the finest I’ve r
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was so excited to read this one after I had downloaded the sample. And in the beginning, this story of a poor Oklahoma girl who marries and moves to Saudi Arabia with her oil worker husband, really sang. Virginia Mae McPhee (Gin) is the daughter of strong women. Her grandmother walks out on her preacher grandfather to make a better life for herself and her own daughter, Gin's mother. Gin lives with these two female influences until both her mother and grandmother die. At that point, she is for ...more
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Born dirt poor in Oklahoma and raised by a Bible strict grandfather, Gin Mitchell trades her dilapidated cage for a gilded one when her young husband takes a job with Arabian American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia. It’s 1967 and Mason is an admirer of Martin Luther King, Jr. and fearless believer in doing what’s right, which earns him respect but also enemies in a company whose policies dictate that native brown skinned workers are necessarily inferior.

Stuck inside the luxurious home and walled c
Holly S.
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I got pulled into this story right away. On the surface, it's a kind of Mad Men Meets Aramco--1967 Americans drinking cocktails in an expat compound in Saudi Arabia. The book is well-researched, and author captures well the expat lifestyle of isolation, over-indulgence & busybody expat women.

I had been hesitant to read this book because the author had never been to Saudi Arabia. I did find the Arab character Abdullah and the Indian cook Yash to be both be "off" in behavior and especially in lang
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I saw this book described as "Mad Men meets The Sheltering Sky." I've never actually read The Sheltering Sky, or watched Mad Men, but I'm pretty sure I get the gist. If this means it's American optimism and hubris in the Middle East meets midcentury modern style, killer clothes and sexism, then yes, that is just what this is. The writing is very nice, and there is a great thread of tension throughout that keeps the pages moving quickly, but everything takes a back seat to the mesmerizing setting ...more
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2013
Hmmm...not entirely sure what to say about this one. Parts of it were really interesting, about living in an oil camp in Saudi Arabia, but much of the story felt unbelievable and contrived. I didn't understand the main characters actions at times, and it was hard to know what she actually felt for the men in her life (husband, house boy, driver, and grandfather). And then the lack of conclusion...the opening lines set it up to be almost a mystery...but it doesn't deliver. Ultimately, it's an oka ...more
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Virginia “Gin” Mitchell is a dreamer but life on a rural Oklahoma farm in 1968 is no fairy tale world, especially with a fundamentalist grandfather who finds infraction of religious law at every turn. When she ends up pregnant by local boy Mason McPhee, Gin is shunned and finds herself no better off in her new life with her new husband in Houston, TX. Impoverished and desperate to improve their situation, Mason takes a job overseas with an oil company, one located in the arid and isolated desert ...more
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was ok

I find it hard to rate this book. I recently heard the author read the first paragraph on the Diane Rehm Show and I don't feel that the subsequent story met its goal with regard to the mystery of the dead sister of Abdullah. Perhaps this is due to the confusing plot that I found hard to follow, when Gin's husband went off in search of truth and justice, as well as the amount of time it took to introduce the sister of Abdullah. Or maybe the point was to show just how incredibly naive and foolis
Christy Keating
May 28, 2013 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book and thought the language/writing was absolutely breathtaking at times. There were a few times when the story lost me or made some leaps that I maybe wasn't ready as the reader to make, but that didn't detract from the fact that it was a book that I was eager to read and finish. I found the cultural aspects of it fascinating, and the commentary on big business apropos, where profits come before people.

Unlike some other reviewers I thought the character of Gin was well-
Lori Fast
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at random at the library and was very pleasantly surprised. The writing is incredible and I've added the author to my list of people to keep an eye out for... the story was good as far as the characters go. I felt keenly Gin's rebellious nature and how her upbringing in a fundamentalist Pentacostal home impacted how she viewed her life as a wife at loose ends in a compound in Saudi Arabia. I also felt the genuine connection between her and her husband, regardless of the nat ...more
Jul 24, 2012 rated it liked it
I am not sorry I read this. I felt I learned a little about the Arab - American relationship concerning oil in spite of our friendship with Israel. I did not dislike Gin and the character development specifically within her marital relationship (love / loss).

At one point there was mention of the garden of Eden. Women's curiosity got us booted from the garden, but was it because we sinned or because we would have eventually eaten from the tree of life as well. Within the context of the story, I
Sally Brock
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant piece of story telling, Ms. Barnes - bravo. A chilling story of naive Americans abroad, of women asked to be silent and unseeing one time too many, and of the towering power of kings and their money. The tale was a compelling one for me having lived abroad as a young woman and been witness to my own foolhardiness in the face of assuming certain cultural behaviors, to the dilemmas of living with domestic help for the first time and to experiencing the combination of freedom and isolat ...more
Robyn B
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a truly enjoyable book that takes you away in time and place. Arabia in the 1960s at the height of the US/Arab collaboration to extract oil from the desert and the lives of those people living in that very foreign land. How easy to get caught up in the lifelike story of Gin, a young bride struggling to find her way in the world. I loved this book until the end. I can't say I liked the ending much. Seemed as though the writer lost her way just as the character did. Still a great read.
Emma Bennett
One star for the first chapter - enthralling, intriguing, beautifully set 'back in time' with characters I loved and loved to hate. Another star for the cover illustrations - one of the prettiest books I've seen! But unfortunately that's all that saved this book for me; extremely irritating main character who I just wanted to scream at, in a bad way, with an unsatisfactory ending.
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a novel about a young couple from Oklahoma that go to Saudi Arabia for work in an American oil company in the 1960s and their struggle to adjust to life on a compound. This was a topic I haven’t read about and found it to be an interesting read. I’ve had this book on my shelf for a few years and realized that I probably bought it after a review from one of my Good Reads friends, Nikki. Thanks for turning me on to this book!
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book a lot. First of all, the main character Virginia Mae, was intriguing. This book really was about the "education of Gin." Secondly, I had never read a book where Saudi Arabia and the oil fields in the early 1970's was the setting - attention-keeping. Lastly, I enjoyed how Barnes wrapped the story up - denouement.
Jul 19, 2019 marked it as to-read
10/10, I think Kim Barnes is the holy ghost. I mean, all lectures should start with a story about some random dutch-german-indian family rescuing an owl from a porta-potty.
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Gin McPhee grew up in poverty, with a strict grandfather who preached and taught her the consequences of sin. Almost to her disbelief, Gin finds herself escaping her life and married to Mason, a former prom king who gives up a scholarship to Oklahoma State when she finds herself pregnant and gets a job in oil. Houston is replaced by Saudi Arabia and Gin finds mending and making do replaced by living in the luxury compound run by the Arabian American Oil Company.

It is 1967, but things have change
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The cover for this book shows a woman's hands neatly folded, the neails perfect, the clothing tasteful, but there is no face. The book introduces us to Virginia "Gin" McPhee who only wants to "know." It takes places in 1970, just when women's liberation was getting started. It was a time when an employer could ask when you were planning to get pregnant.

After losing both her grandmother (who left her husband as a young woman and raised Gin's mother alone) and her mother, Gin is sent to live wit
Jul 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Gin and Mason McPhee leave their dirt poor pasts behind for an opportunity to live in a "protected community" in Saudi Arabi in the 1960's, under the arm of the real-life company that existed at that time known as "Aramco".

The company gives them a palatial home with a dedicated and trusted houseboy. The community has everything they need: Recreation center with a pool, schools, hospital, and police force. Mason works on a platform rig on the sea, and is gone for two weeks, then home for two.

Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel by Kim Barnes takes place in 1967 in Oklahoma where Ginny McPhee is being raised in a two room shack by her grandfather after her mother died. The grandfather is a strict Methodist minister who keeps Gin under extreme control which leads her to escape one night, have sex with the local basketball star and find herself pregnant. When her husband finds a job with an Arabian American Oil Company, they move to Saudi Arabia where they move into a house that includes marble floors and a hou ...more
Diane S ☔
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lawrence of Arabia, Arabian nights, I remember reading so much history centering on Arabia that when I saw this book I knew it was one I had to read.In the 1960's Gin McPhee finds herself, with her husband in Saudi Arabia when her husband finds work with the Saudi American oil company Aramco. Ginny who was raised, after the unfortunate demise of her mother and grandmother, in Oklahoma by her often punishing grandfather, who was a Pentecostal minister. They live in an American compound, strictly ...more
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school

This one is the real deal. Kim Barnes writes a drop dead gorgeous novel set in 1967 Arabia. Narrator Virginia "Gin" McPhee is a dirt poor orphan from rural Oklahoma who winds up in one of the Americanized oil compounds in the Saudi desert with her high school sweetheart, Mason. "The education of Mrs. Gin" that takes place once she arrives in this exotic and paradoxical place is languorous, poignant, cringe-inducing, and violent by turns. Barnes successfully fuses a captivating fiction narrative
Lisa Carter
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book - best book I've read in a long time. It's the story of a young woman figuring out who she is and what she wants. At times she seemed selfish and impatient to me and I had to keep reminding myself that she is 18-19 years old and was brought up in extreme poverty and religious austerity. So when she and her husband arrive overseas and he works 2 week tours at a time, she is left to figure out what to do with herself. She can't do housework because that would put out her houseboy ( ...more
Katherine Spencer Inskeep
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Haunting, exotic, perplexing, compelling...I was strangely drawn to this book, thinking of it when I wasn't reading. Imagine 1960's Saudi Arabia, a young woman from Oklahoma raised by her conservative and religious grandfather, married young to her sweetheart who quits college and gets a job on an oil rig. Life in Arabia is like living in a silk prison, but in some ways Gin McPhee has more freedoms than she did in OK. She begins to discover who she is, taking risks, cutting her hair, pushing the ...more
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I was born in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1958, and one week later, I returned with my mother to our small line-shack on Orofino Creek, where my father worked as a gyppo logger. The majority of my childhood was spent with my younger brother, Greg, in the isolated settlements and cedar camps along the North Fork of Idaho’s Clearwater River. I was the first member of my family to attend college. I hold a BA ...more

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