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Acts of Faith

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,538 Ratings  ·  241 Reviews
Philip Caputo’s tragic and epically ambitious new novel is set in Sudan, where war is a permanent condition. Into this desolate theater come aid workers, missionaries, and mercenaries of conscience whose courage and idealism sometimes coexist with treacherous moral blindness. There’s the entrepreneurial American pilot who goes from flying food and medicine to smuggling arm ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published May 9th 2006 by Vintage (first published 2005)
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Jun 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
It pains me to give a ho-hum review to a novel that was clearly so dear to the heart of the author; "Acts of Faith" must've been a labor of love for Philip Caputo...sadly, what mostly is conveyed is the labor and not the love (at least to this reader).

I've never read a book so exasperating to read...often I was riveted AND bored at the same time. The core story is quite interesting: The world of humanitarian aid to Sudan during wartime and famine (as told by several different characters behind
Aug 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
The compactness of this paperback format is deceptive; this book has an epic plot spanning years of political turmoil, an expansive cast that repeatedly sends you to the front of the book to refer back to the dramatis personae, and sometimes, just way too much going on.

Nonetheless, Caputo just barely manages this huge effort - a bunch of people jockey for contracts to fly relief aid to the Sudan. Whether it's profiteering or not is a theme; so is the benevolent paternalism many of the characters
Mar 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book was a disappointment overall. Give it a 2.5. I almost gave it a 3 but I don't know if I can say I liked it. It was sort of a love/hate relationship. I wanted to read it because of the Sudan setting which I wanted to learn more about. I know it was well-researched. I did learn quite a bit about the struggles there and in other parts of Africa. However, partway through it startd to deteriorate into a soap opera. The characters were colorful and interesting as one might expect in Africa. ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
This long but rewarding book is not particularly well written, but it's a compelling story (or set of stories), with complex characters dealing with a set of important issues. Most of the main characters are involved in providing aid to Sudan, plus two characters directly involved in the conflict, one a Muslim tribal headman who fights on the side of the government, and a nominally Christian rebel leader. All of the characters act out of some kind of faith, even if it's a secular faith. Most are ...more
John Sherman
May 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those who enjoyed What is the What by Dave Eggers
This is a great book to read in conjunction with Eggers' What is the What. Both are set in Sudan and both focus on the conflict between the Sudan's Muslim / Arab population and its southern black population. While Eggers' book focuses on the refugees of the conflict, Caputo in "Acts of Faith" spends most of his time telling the stories of aid workers who help the tribes in southern Sudan. With the current conflict in Darfur, this is an excellent book to read to learn more about the country and i ...more
Oct 24, 2010 rated it did not like it
By editing out approximately half of this book, one could discover a novel worthy of comparison to Graham Greene.
Nov 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: passport, 2010-read
At nearly 700 pages, this novel is a hefty read. But it's worth the effort for the rich characters and the musing on the outcome of deeply held convictions (the "faith" of the title), be they religious, altruistic, or romantic. The author turns too often to odd-couple romantic pairings, but I was willing to forgive the overuse of this plot device because I found the characters so interesting.

This book covers, in graphic detail, war in the Sudan, including the aftermath of bombings, hand-to-hand
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
Gave up on this book after about 200 pages. Would have loved to read more if I could stand the writing -- at its best, it is a powerful exploration of the moral ambiguities surrounding the West's role in the Sudan. But the message gets bogged down in trite, heavy-handed dialogue and tired platitudes, and after a while I just couldn't stand any more.
Aug 26, 2007 rated it it was ok
This book was way too long. By the time I got to the last 100 pages, I was skimming just so I could finish it. I can imagine it is hard to write a book about Africa in less than 700 pages though because there is so much going on. I could have done without the chapters relating the background of the characters. I do not think they really added anything.
Jun 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
“Do you suppose war to be here what wars are elsewhere?”… “Do you suppose that it is an event, with a discrete beginning that will proceed to a discrete middle und so weiter on to a discrete end? No! It is a condition of life, like drought. There is war in Sudan because there is war.”

“Like Vietnam?” Douglas murmured. “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here.”

Manfred’s gaze passed from the American’s face to his boots, then back up again. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”


Mark Martella
May 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sweeping, epic look at a forgotten corner of the world. Not perfect, but I love the ambition.
Jul 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Because there is way too much going on in this 700-page saga to cover it all in a review of this length, I will limit my comments to the one character that interested me the most. Quinette Hardin is a young American woman from a rural Midwestern background caught in the middle of a bloody war between the Muslim-backed Sudanese government and black African insurgents. From the beginning I was impressed with the author's ability to depict a strong female character without resorting to the misogyni ...more
Will Byrnes
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a sweeping masterwork in which Africa is the central character. The characters include a mixed race, UN bureaucrat, a ladies man, who falls in love with the much older, white, wealthy, colonial woman, an American entrepreneur, a daredevil pilot who seeks to earn his fortune and transport supplies to the neediest and least served in Sudan, a young American missionary who falls in love with and ultimately marries a tribal leader, a corrupt local businessman. Africa, in this accounting, is ...more
Susan Skelly
Jul 31, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, rubbish
The Days of Our Lives: Sudan - a waste of paper and time.

When they say "write about what you know" they don't say "include everything and don't forget the kitchen sink!"

The first half of the book is full of too many main characters. I got the feeling the author just couldn't choose a filter. The second half is dominated by soap opera-like love affairs and is taken over by the two most unlikable characters in the book.

If you were having trouble with the mishmash style of the first half and wishi
Apr 15, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a book with a compelling plotline and a five star ending that just takes too long getting there. When the middle third of this read turned out to be pretty much nothing but unlikely love affairs between at least four couples, I wondered what was going on in Caputo's life during the writing that caused him to forget his novel about Sudan and start writing a soap opera. I almost gave up, but the last third of the book is so good, and the ending is the kind of Graham-Greene-sobering that a ...more
Dec 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Hmm, I thought I wrote a review of this one back when I read it, but it doesn't seem to be here now. Well, I heard about it from other folks who know Sudan well and recognized the characters for the real people they are based on. I read the last half in one long jet-lagged night shortly after arriving in Khartoum. I liked the different story lines, when one got a little tedious it would switch to another. It didn't feel much to me like the Sudan that I've experienced, but I guess that's because ...more
Dec 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's a novel, but firmly rooted in the surreal realities of modern-day Sudan. Caputo, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, wrote it after being on assignment for National Geographic Adventure magazine. He did a phenomenal job of capturing the Sudanese dynamic, including the strange reverberations set in motion by well-meaning if uncritical FBOs and NGOs. It's a great read, too.
Lynda Stauffer
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My first Philip Caputo, and not my last! This is a broad view of wars, works of charity, geography, cultures, powers that crush and powers that propel. Characters are fully formed. The author's pace is steady. I did not get bored on any page. This is a terrific book to sit and talk about. I used my Google map a lot. Go to Africa with Philip.
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
you almost feel like you are in africa the writing is that vivid. Interesting characters and a world far from ours.
Ana Maria
I was ready to drop it before page 100 but after that it got a nit more interesting. Something strange happened to me with this book, I would struggle to pick it back up but when I did, I didn't want to let it go.
It could have been edited better, too long but not with great descriptions or valuable info for the story.
Linda Tuplin
Jul 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
I didn 't actually finish. I made it about 2/3 of the way before just giving up. I had started it twice before and put it down. It's time to let it go. Parts of the story really grip me, but it just gets so bogged down in unnecessary details that I lose my train of thought.
Oct 30, 2011 added it
Shelves: in-library
From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Caputo's ambitious adventure novel, set against a backdrop of the Sudanese wars, makes for a dense, riveting update on Graham Greene's The Quiet American. The American in this case is Douglas Braithwaite, a "mercenary with a conscience" who founds Knight Air, a charter airline that conveys relief supplies from NGOs to war-torn southern Sudan. Braithwaite launches his service by flying aid to the Nuba, a region in the northern Sudanese sphere of influence t

Jun 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Strong start as real life/well researched story shifts (Caputo seems to have an understanding of Africa) to mediocre soap opera, finishes stronger than middle but not as good as beginning.

I had a love/blah relationship with this book. Started out slow, but got into the politics/culture of Sudan, the UN, relief agencies... and if you would like almost journalistic account of the conflict in southern Sudan and nuts-bolts of the politics and the NGO's involved, the first part of the book was GREAT
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book because Goodreads basically forced me to. Every recommendations list for me had this book on it - so I had to try it out!

I really wanted to like this book, and I did, though it wasn't quite as good as I wanted it to be.

This book is epic, and it has the length to prove it (almost 700 pages). What it was to me was essentially a story about the very thin line between right and wrong, and the human ability to rationalize any action on either side of that line. Every character on eve
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Philip Caputo’s “Acts of Faith” is an impressive read, at once both ponderous and pleasing. With small type and almost 700 pages, it takes a bit of commitment, but the reward is there. The narrative is dense and complex, with a score of different characters making an appearance and a number of themes playing through the storyline. Mercenaries, missionaries, profiteers, and humanitarians coalesce in this story, each acting through their own belief system. While all makes sense in the end, it take ...more
Eve Williams
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: african
I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps because I saw such gritty truth in the characters, and it didn't hurt that I recognized the real-life people that many of these characters were based on. As Americans (and the world) slowly begin to rethink and evaluate our methods of aid, development, and peace-building, novels such as this one become quite helpful. While political and economic commentaries can give you the raw data behind the exploding Aid Business (see: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney or Lords of Poverty by Graham Hancock ) , Caputo's words give you th ...more
Sep 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book didn't give me what I was hoping to get. I bought it because I thought I would learn something, but I didn't. It gave me that cinema feeling of Africa, when you feel nostalgic and naive about something that you think it is how it is, and then turns out that it isn't at all what you thought it would be. I was hoping it would be great, but it wasn't. I loved the end of this book but it made me feel again like I feel every time when I watch Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. I feel a need t ...more
This story is an in-depth study of two basic areas. One, a deeply felt evangelical obsession to bring salvation to an African culture that has more pressing needs, like food. The locals are starving, war weary, and easy victims of the religious beliefs. Second, the relief workers are, in some ways, philanthropic in their righteous efforts to fulfill the medical and nutritional needs. However, they’re in it for the money. The cast of characters which includes bush pilots, missionaries, aid worker ...more
Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is about the struggles in the Sudan. It painted a convincing picture of how the UN is mucking up things with their certain protocols and this leaves Non Government Orgs (NGO's) to just take the initiative and use illegal plane charter company's to ship in relief to these ravaged Non-Muslims living in the South. It goes through the intricacies of their work and how greed is the driving force behind their humanitarian work. This Greed then destroys relationships and jeopardizes the wellb ...more
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American author and journalist. Author of 16 books, including the upcoming novel SOME RISE BY SIN. Best known for A Rumor of War , a best-selling memoir of his experiences during the Vietnam War (look for the special 40th Anniversary Edition in summer 2017).
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“Belief is a virus, and once it gets into you, its first order of business is to preserve itself, and the way it preserves itself is to keep you from having any doubts, and the way it keeps you from doubting is to blind you to the way things really are. Evidence contrary to the belief can be staring you straight in the face, and you won't see it... True believers just don't see things the way they are, because if they did, they wouldn't be true believers anymore.” 3 likes
“As a rule he had found it useful as well as prudent to trust his fellow man to do the right thing only when the wrong thing failed to present itself.” 0 likes
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