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The Girl in Green

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From the author of Norwegian by Night, and Short Listed for the 2017 CWA Gold Dagger Award, a novel about two men on a misbegotten quest to save the girl they failed to save decades before

1991. Near Checkpoint Zulu, one hundred miles from the Kuwaiti border, Thomas Benton meets Arwood Hobbes. Benton is a British journalist who reports from war zones in part to avoid his lackluster marriage and a daughter he loves but cannot connect with; Arwood is a mid-western American private who might be an insufferable ignoramus, or might be a genuine lunatic with a death wish--it's hard to tell.

Desert Storm is over, peace has been declared, but as they argue about whether it makes sense to cross the nearest border in search of an ice cream, they become embroiled in a horrific attack in which a young local girl in a green dress is killed as they are trying to protect her. The two men walk away into their respective lives. But something has cracked for them both. 

Twenty-two years later, in another place, in another war, they meet again and are offered an unlikely opportunity to redeem themselves when that same girl in green is found alive and in need of salvation. Or is she?

336 pages, Hardcover

First published January 3, 2017

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About the author

Derek B. Miller

7 books568 followers
Derek B. Miller is an American novelist, who worked in international affairs before turning to writing full-time. He is the author of six novels, all highly acclaimed: Norwegian by Night, The Girl in Green, American by Day, Radio Life, Quiet Time (an Audible Original) and How to Find Your Way in the Dark. His work has been shortlisted for many awards, with Norwegian by Night winning the CWA John Creasey Dagger award for best first crime novel, an eDunnit Award and the Goldsboro Last Laugh Award. How to Find Your Way in the Dark was a Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award and a New York Times Best Mystery of 2021.

Miller is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College (BA), Georgetown (MA) and he earned his Ph.D., summa cum laude, in international relations from The Graduate Institute in Geneva. He is currently connected to numerous peace and security research and policy centres in North America, Europe and Africa, and previously worked with the United Nations for over a decade. He has lived abroad for over twenty-five years in Israel, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway and Spain.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 453 reviews
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,687 reviews14k followers
January 11, 2017
Exploring the many different agencies, the political nightmare of trying to understand the many different cultures and the religious beliefs of each, Miller has invented two very unique and quite likable characters, Arrowood and Benson. When they first meet the Gulf War has ended, at least ended as far as the United States is concerned, now turning to a peace keeping role, but as far as the infighting between the different tribes are concerned, there is no peace. Arrowood Hobbs, a young private in his early twenties, is guarding the northernmost end of the American Zone, checkpoint Zulu, it is here he meets Benson, a journalist embedded with the army. Before the day is over a young boy will be saved and a young Iraqi girl in a green dress dead. This death will have serious effects on both of these men and their future lives. They will reunite twenty years later because of another girl in green. A ill advised quest for redemption.

Written with a great deal of ironic humor, pop references abound, a book that highlights the absurdity of war. So much to understand in the Middle East, and this book shows how little is understood, despite many agencies and their efforts. It is at times an edge of your seat thriller, a political nightmare, an a PR challenge. What we see on television is only what they want us to see, not too surprising. I loved these characters, all of them, well except for the bad guys of course, they are unique, well intentioned and just trying to save as many as they can. We also see how the first event, led these two memo to the lives they led.

A wonderful, well written story that has once again reiterated how little we know about the various cultures, tribes, affiliations in the Middle East. Meddling in things in which we never should have gotten involved. At times reading this book, this was confusing, but I loved the main story and on that is what I focused. The author is well qualified, and has a unique understanding of this region as one can see if they read his bio.

Fascinating, informative and another great offering from this author.

ARC from publisher.
Profile Image for Iris P.
171 reviews203 followers
June 21, 2017
The Girl in Green

Frequently novels include a disclaimer that goes something like: "This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental." The disclaimer in The Girl In Green simply states: "Inspired by many actual events"

Sometimes a book is just a work of fiction and sometimes you come across a story that, although technically fictional, it is quite a challenge to draw the line between myth and reality. Indeed, soon after you start reading The Girl In Green you notice that the story comes eerily close to the headlines we read in the news almost every day.

This book is such a page-turner because, not only does Miller has first-hand experience and deep knowledge of the Middle East and the role Humanitarian organizations play in that region, he also happens to be a fantastic storyteller.

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Derek B. Miller - The author is the founder of The Policy Lab, an international think tank and has worked for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research

The story opens in Iraq during the Spring of 1991, right as the first Gulf War has come to an end. Operation Desert Storm is now over and a "peace agreement" is being negotiated by all the concerned parties. At Checkpoint Zulu, a roadblock 240 kilometers from the Kuwaiti border, a bold 22-year-old American soldier and a British journalist who is embedded with his unit, meet and very soon realize that the "peace" part of that peace agreement is something of a misnomer.

For America and its allies the war might be over, but scores of Iraqi Shiites, many of whom rose against their government, are being massacred by Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. All the while, American soldiers who want to help civilians are unable to do so as they have been ordered not to interfere in the ongoing civil war.

When Benton decides to wander into Samawah, a nearby town that has been overtaken by the Shiites, he is caught under a heavy attack as the Iraqi army is trying to retake the city. In the middle of this mayhem, he notices a young girl and tries to put her get out of harm's way.

Fast forward 22 years to the same region. Different factions have now emerged but the ageless conflicts rage on. A video of an insurgent attack showing a girl who appears to have survived it becomes viral. Arwood and Thomas will meet again in Iraq to find out if the girl is alive and see if they can rescue her. It's an attempt to conclude a chapter of their lives that opened two decades earlier but was never properly closed.

The second part of the novel takes place mostly on the border between Iraq and Syria. We witness the rise of ISIL, the ever-growing Syrian refugee crisis and get a glimpse into the risky lives of the volunteers who work for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's). I found this part particularly fascinating as Miller highlights the heartbreaking choices that people who work in this field are faced with every day.

Although Arwood and Thomas are the main protagonists, there are plenty of other heroes and they come in many different races, genders, nationalities and religious backgrounds. Miller does a good job using these characters to offer different perspectives and to convey the cultural and geopolitical nuances of the region.
 photo David-Eubank-of-the-Free-Burma-Rangers-on-duty-as-an-aid-worker-in-Mosul-Iraq_zpsi2rmqyru.jpg
David Eubank, an aid worker and former Green Beret runs through ISIL gun fire to rescue a girl in Mosul, Iraq on June 16th, 2017

I have some minor quibbles with the novel, the first one is that in spite of creating such a diverse cast of characters, at the end Miller still (mostly) relies on the Western/White/Male/Hero narrative to save the day. The second is that as much as I appreciated his ability to inject satire, I though that sometimes the humor was ill-timed and a bit over the top. This gave the book an ending that, in my opinion, felt too "Hollywood-eske".

Nevertheless The Girl In Green is a well-written, highly engaging thriller that is also an astute examination of the politics of the Middle East, the ironies of war and the consequences of our frequent badly executed invasions.

When you read this book, you understand why it is impossible for politicians in the West to fit their foreign policy "doctrines" into a catchy soundbite or a 140 character tweet. Which is why this was also a sobering experience, a sad realization that most of what takes place in this story it's still very much part of the world we are living in.
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books993 followers
February 10, 2017
This is a sometimes Catch 22-esque war story by heavily-credentialed specialist in international affairs Derek B. Miller. It takes place during the Desert Storm Gulf War and then 22 years later. The banter and almost-casual profundity of the narrative are spectacularly funny and wonderful, the tension is palpable, the writing is both solid and spontaneous, and the meaning so timely I want to scream, "Thank you!"

Not a spoiler because I won't give a context, but my big aha from this book is how much of our politics are directed by men's intolerance for feeling weak and/or humiliated—no matter what side they are on or culture they are in.

I will offer no quotes from this imminently quotable text—because I read an advance copy (Thanks, Netgalley). Read it before it becomes a buddy (a 44- and 63-year-old who can also play their younger selves—in case Matt Damon and Colin Firth are searching for material; no charge for my casting services) men's war movie, and then you can say "I read the book, and it was better!"

You're welcome.
Extra: Read an amazing content-packed interview with author.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,450 reviews9 followers
February 6, 2017
What I love about this author is his ability to formulate outstanding sentences, to illustrate his ideas with intelligence and an immaculate sense of humor. Those sentences were scattered throughout, yet I had difficulty seeing them as a cohesive story. It felt uneven to me. After loving his first book so much, I never expected to struggle with this one. The subject matter undoubtedly was my main problem, with Desert Storm being over but not really over, and the various Iraqi factions that I've never been able to keep straight. Difficult a read as it was, however, I still persevered because of my faith in the writer to pull it off. I did enjoy the main characters and their stories very much, but disappointed that I couldn't connect with this one as I did with Norwegian by Night. 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,271 reviews117 followers
November 12, 2016
The Girl in Green is the second novel by American novelist and international policy specialist, Derek B. Miller. It’s late March 1991, and United States Army Private Arwood Hobbes is at the northern edge of Checkpoint Zulu, “maintaining a vigilant perimeter” in Iraq’s newly-brokered peace, when a British journalist from the Times wanders up.

Thomas Benton is a seasoned war correspondent who’s after the story from a local perspective. With some encouragement from Arwood, he walks toward nearby Samawah, intent on interviews and ice cream. A surprise attack sees Hobbes and Benton trying to rescue a villager, “the girl in green”, but the situation somehow ends badly, leading to their removal from the area and an eventual “other-than-honourable” discharge for Hobbes.

Fast forward twenty-two years, when a lingering feeling of guilt and a YouTube clip see Hobbes and Benton once again trying to rescue “the girl in green”. Is it human design or divine intervention that sees the original players of the drama and its aftermath gathered together again? Their mission is surely insane and bound to fail!

As with Norwegian By Night, Miller gives the reader an original plot with plenty of action, a twist or two, and a thrilling climax. Generous doses of tension are relieved by the banter between the characters, which is often blackly funny. Miller’s characters are wholly believable and, for all their quirks and very human flaws, especially appealing.

Miller’s considerable personal experience in both conflict zones and policy making is apparent on every page and he raises several thought provoking topics, including the intricate coordination and extensive diplomatic skills required in hostage negotiations, the crazy Catch 22 in the Department of Veteran Affairs that exists for veterans needing psychological counselling, the failure of foreign organisations to become familiar with the language, politics and customs of the countries they are purporting to aid, and the fate of national staff of NGOs when their employers withdraw due to escalating hostilities.

Miller gives the reader a novel that is topical and highly relevant in today’s world. Fans of Norwegian By Night will not be disappointed with Miller’s latest literary foray and will be hoping for more from this talented author soon. The Girl in Green is exciting, insightful and entertaining: another brilliant read.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,150 reviews1,592 followers
December 11, 2016
Welcome to post-war Iraq, where it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish the war from the so-called peace. Derek B. Miller has worked on international peace and security of diplomatic missions and the United Nations, and it shows. His book has the ring of authenticity, which makes for mesmerizing reading.

The novel starts in 1991,when two men – a British war journalist named Thomas Benton and a fearless and possibly unhinged American private named Arwood Hobbes, meet at Checkpoint Zulu, close to the Kuwait border. There, after becoming involved in a local situation, they witness the senseless execution of a girl in a green dress.

Fast forward. It’s now 22 years later, and the men are haunted by what they’ve seen. Hobbes sees another girl in a green dress on Al Jazeera, and convinces Benton – whom he hasn’t seen in all these years – to join him in a quixotic quest to save her. Benton reflects: “I’ starting to think…that maybe we leave parts of ourselves behind in certain situations – some essential piece of ourselves that we have to cut off, otherwise there’s no way out.” He jumps in with both feet.

The ensuing cinematic plot might fall into the adventure story genre, except that Miller knows his stuff. In Catch-22 prose, this author reveals how things really are during these “peace” years: our total misreading of the culture of those we decided to “liberate”, the way that various NGOs come together behind the scenes, how the media gets the story wrong, how hostage situations truly play out, and how girls with green dresses will continue to populate the landscape.

In an age of cynicism, the theme of The Girl in Green is this: the only thing worse than evil is deciding that evil didn’t matter. At their Core, Benton and Hobbes still believe that individual lives matter. That message – despite the darkness in this book – is heartwarming.

Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
814 reviews746 followers
February 1, 2017
"It has been said that the US army was designed by geniuses to be run by idiots."

It isn’t every writer that accomplishes what this author did: grip me from the first to last pages. Miller’s cinematic and CATCH-22-esque story is suspenseful, and the prose is lucid and muscular. The thrilling plot threads, the robust characters, and the enduring themes develop with a fluent and resonant rhythm, keeping me fastened to the book at every turn. I wanted to call in sick rather than ever put it down! I kept turning the pages, eyes glued, caught up in the excitement of the novel.

Although this takes place in Iraq in 1991, during the early days of the Iraq civil war, and 22 years later, when Muslim anti-sentiment has been entrenched worldwide (and middle east regions and their people are lumped together in many people’s minds), this isn’t a war or political novel. It is about individuals caught up in the torrent of ignorance, collective hatred and prejudice, fueled by war and conflict, and inflamed by misinformation and aggression. On top of that, it is a prismatic scrutiny and ironic double-back on media. And the fact of bureaucracy makes a sinister contribution. However, the reader witnesses the small but significant acts of kindness and humanity, which are both organic and startling, but not sentimental or syrupy.

Derek Miller tells a powerful story that enlightens without pandering or condescending to readers. He doesn’t press any political agenda but does underscore the potency of rhetoric on groups and individuals. Moreover, deception and withholding of information is also demonstrated as insidious and dangerous.

Hobbes Arwood, a young American soldier in his early 20s, and Thomas Benton, a 40-something war correspondent working a rank and file job for the Times, meet for the first time near the peace-keeping demarcation line at Checkpoint Zulu, near the Kuwait border, in 1991. As Hobbes naïvely asks, “When is this war gonna end?” his wake-up call begins when Benton responds, “It did. The war is over. This is the peace.”

In the meantime, Hobbes’ terrific one-liners and sideways dialogue, infused with pop culture, add a droll flavor to the text. “I have this theory that everything you truly need to know…deep down and for the duration, can be learned from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off …To me, the army is Principal Ed Rooney, and you need to be Ferris.”

For their brief but critical time together, Benton is now Ferris to Arwood. But serious events cloud their rapport. They witness a young girl—the eponymous girl in green-- executed by a tyrannical Baathist colonel. The subsequent but insanely risky rescue by Hobbes of a young boy is not enough to offset the hollowed-out despair left by the young girl’s death.

There are also incongruous scenes of levity mixed with dread that point to the absurdity of giving aid for self-aggrandizement, the lack of humanity in a humanitarian effort. Miller’s talent demonstrates that, rather than these scenes possessing an air of writer impropriety, they emphasize the vulgarity and solecism that belong to the perpetrators. The author expresses folly and unseemliness with empathy and black humor. A spectacle, depicting frozen chickens being dropped for food aid, left me almost speechless with horror and dark mirth.

The chance for Hobbes’s and Benton’s redemption come 22 years later when a YouTube video in Iraq goes viral across the globe, showing what looks like the very same girl in green in a queue with Kurd refugees. A mortar is dropped on the crowd, causing an explosion and widespread death. The date: 2013. How can the girl that died reappear? Is it her, a doppelgänger, a trick? “I don’t know. A coincidence. An echo. A midday moon in a blue sky.” What follows is the meat of the story, when Benton and Hobbes connect again in Iraq, and attempt to find and save the girl. But, nothing is easy and all goes awry.

The riveting events that unfold are on point and inclusive, connecting all the themes to the plot of the story, and kept me in a buzzed state of anticipation on every page. In addition, the weight of all the red tape and competing or allied institutions and NGOs were, I suspect, purposely confusing at times, in order to highlight the burden of "cooperation."

Miller never loses sight of the individual, and there were several that we rooted for. All the characters were finely drawn and nuanced, and family bonds, both dear and broken, those by blood and others by choice, were the heart of the novel. You’ll find it pumping on every page.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,097 reviews591 followers
March 12, 2017
When British Journalist Thomas Benton meets US soldier Arwood Hobbes in 1991 at Checkpoint Zulu near the Kuwaiti border where he is part of the force remaining to keep the peace after the end of Desert Storm, he sets in train events that culminate 22 years later in a dangerous and daring rescue mission. Benton wanders off to a nearby village hoping for some local stories and gets caught up in a mortar attack on the village by local insurgents at the start of what will become the Iraqi civil war. He flees back to the checkpoint dragging with him a young girl in a green dress who he has rescued. Unfortunately just as he is within sight of the checkpoint, the insurgents catch up with them and execute the young girl.

Neither Benton nor Hobbes ever get over the brutality of this wasteful and malicious killing so when they see a young girl in a green dress caught up in a similar attack on video some 22 years later they feel compelled to mount a rescue operation. What follows is an almost absurd series of events as Benton and Hobbes convince various NGOs into lending them the resources they need to launch a rescue mission in a war zone. That Derek Miller has a background in international affairs and policy and has worked in war zones, shows in his account of how things really work. Many situations ring so true, including the scene describing a food drop of deadly frozen chickens, that they must have actually happened. Instead of telling us the futility of the developed world interfering in Middle Eastern politics, he shows us why it is absurd and futile using dark humour, likeable characters and fine writing skills to make his point and engage us with good story telling at the same time. Many reviewers have likened this to Catch-22 and there are certainly strong parallels. Certainly he shows us how naive we are in thinking we can ever sort out the complex politics involved bringing peace to the many cultures and tribes of this region of the world.
Profile Image for Mary Lins.
817 reviews114 followers
December 20, 2016

Is "The Girl in Green", by Derek B. Miller, an action-paced thriller? Yes!
Is it a literary tour de force? Yes!
Is it timely? Yes!
Is it a satire? Yes!
Is it a farce? Yes!
Is it hilarious? Yes!
Is it heartbreaking? Yes!
Is it this Century's "Catch 22"? Yes!

Miller grabbed me at the first paragraph and never let me go! What a talent! Miller's writing style and narrative "voice" are unique, crystal clear, and both witty AND weighty. I laughed many many times, even though the subject matter is horrific. The novel revolves around the wars in the Middle East and it's clear that Miller has not only researched his subject matter, he's recognized the cognitive dissonances and formed astute opinions (his take on educating the women being the solution is worth the price of admission). Through his novel he humanizes what most of us only skim in the news. He puts us Right There; that's why I think everyone should read this novel. To say the novel is "timely" is a gross understatement.

Arwood, a private in the Army and Benton, an English journalist, meet at Checkpoint Zulu at the rim of the Euphrates Valley. It is 1991 and the first Gulf War has just ended; but the turmoil has intensified. (We readers know how this all plays out, unfortunately). Very Bad Things Happen that form a connection between Arwood and Benton even though they don't reconnect for 22 years. That's when things "hit the fan".

I couldn't turn the pages of this novel fast enough; this is one of those novels that "call to me" when I'm going about my daily routine...I WANT to find time to dip in and read, and yet I want the magic to last. The magic that a great writer can conjure; transporting the reader to the Middle East, revealing more and more about what happened and is happening in the world, describing evil, and creating real and compelling characters like Arwood and Benton with whom I instantly fell in love.

Please Mr. Miller, turn this into a screenplay. You've already written the smart and witty dialogue, the suspenseful plot line, and even thrown in some romance; "The Girl in Green" would make a fantastic film.
Profile Image for Monica.
574 reviews611 followers
July 17, 2019
The Girl in Green was a good novel about the Middle East, specifically Iraq and Syria. Miller seems to have a handle on the people/culture of the region. He gives that impression because he adds nuance to his characterizations that one would only notice if they knew the culture. Otherwise you find yourself, like me going "That's really interesting". Miller's knowledge of the Middle East is the highlight of the book.

The book is a very masculine tale of white saviors. A couple of good ole boys show that they value life, aren't racist; they just hate evil people. Arwood doesn't fit in normal society after witnessing the brutal murder of a young girl at the hands of a Colonel in the Iraqi army in the 90s during his short stint in the military. Hobbs is an emotionally unavailable journalist whose wife has had enough of his distance and has begun to seek intimacy elsewhere. Fast forward 22 years and they have an opportunity to save another "girl in green". This time they do not fail. There is an attempt at depth with the philosophical notion that it isn't the same girl but at the same time it is because they are metaphorically caring about an entire people (or at least the innocent women and children) embodied in the "girl in green". The tale is pretty trope-y with damsels in distress, and hard grizzled women in power who still have a big heart for those dumb, cute guys doing noble things. Oh and Hobbs's long suffering wife (who cheated on him because he was emotionally distant) takes him back in the end. And Hobbs's precocious 30 year old daughter has a few chapters of flirting w/ one of the handsome, young Middle East Analyst (over a Skype like video link) while trying to find her father. So what we have here is an explanation that showcased many Muslim men are bad (except for the young driver), but Muslim women and children are good and just need saving…by noble white males…from the bad Islamic men. Miller does go into great detail about the differences between Al Quaeda and Jihadists, which is more or less actually educational.

Overall, a bit of a fun romp though quite the cliché festival. Some less thoughtful people might receive this as close to reality. It's not. It is virtuous and noble porn. Where the Western world has the Middle East region's best interests at heart. I thought it was well written and good for what it was. It was action packed and fast moving. The "girls in green" really were girls, not women. Though there were killings, I found the lack of horrible atrocities done specifically towards females to be a huge relief (there are no rapes or sexual exploitation of females in this story). I don't know that I could do more than one or two of these kinds of "white men save the world" books a year. Honestly I feel like I just read the macho version of chick lit or as my gr friend Carol. calls it: dick lit. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It was pretty good and pretty satisfying. But goodness no, not too many of these in a given year.

4 Stars

Read on kindle
September 8, 2021
While I was unfamiliar with the author, the summary caught my interest in spite of an inherent dislike for stories of war and the human trauma it creates. Well written with intriguing characters, the plot hit my buttons to the point where I could no longer bear the direction. It's difficult to rate stories about topics we don't enjoy, so I'm giving it a 3.5 rating. On to books of interest!
Profile Image for Kate.
7 reviews3 followers
July 20, 2016
It's not often I give a book five stars so when I do it is because the book has really made me think or feel more than anything else I have read recently, not because it will one day become a classic or it is a book that will be studied in school classrooms for years to come, but because of what it meant to me, right here, right now.
I work in a bookshop and I read a lot. I read good books. I read books that make me wonder how they ever got published in the first place. I read books that make me cry and I read ones that are so beautifully written I want to go back over each sentence again and again. I read so many books that even when I have really enjoyed them, I don't always remember them very well only a few months later.
Norwegian by Night is a book that I still sell in the shop most weeks because it stayed with me and I loved it. The Girl in Green will stay with me because it is about something I see on the news and on social media all the time but knew little about. The Girl in Green will stay with me because some parts are seared into my mind. The frozen chickens for example. (And I loved the bit about the Princess Bride!) The Girl in Green is an important novel about a place and a people that we need to read about and care about and pay a lot more attention to as it is going to affect us all, actually it already is. It crushed my heart, so I will remember it and give it five stars, all day, every day.
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,362 reviews2,301 followers
August 8, 2016
"There are always reasons, Jamal, but not justifications": thus Arwood Hobbes, the improbable moral centre of this intense and brilliant novel set amidst the chaos of Syria and Iraq. Miller knows what he's talking about and the story drips with authenticity from the aid workers to the various armies, the refugees to the journalists. It would have been easy for this to be sanctimonious and hand-wringing but the style is lit by a cynical, acidic humour that reminded me irresistably of Catch-22: the scene with the food pallets and frozen chickens, for example, is both absurd and tragic and could only be true.

What makes this so special, though, is the character of Arwood, a kind of 'holy fool': we first meet him as a twenty year old GI bored on a guard outpost on the Iraqi border but he has the ability, despite the lack of a formal education, to see through to the heart of things: "a person's a person, no matter how small, right?". It's this fundamental understanding that guides Arwood's actions, not always comfortably, and carries others in his wake.

I don't want to say more about the plot which would constitute spoilers but this is a book that I couldn't stop reading. In lots of ways this is a profoundly pessimistic as well as a prescient story yet there are moments of hope: 'And yet, his sadness for her is also real, and for a moment he allows himself to feel it, if only because its wellspring is humanity's only hope'.

Miller has written something perfectly-paced and beautifully-judged that combines a page-turning plot with a clear-sighted vision of the best and worst of human nature.
Profile Image for Benjamin Thomas.
1,934 reviews263 followers
June 29, 2017
This is not a book to choose if you’re looking for some light entertainment or to curl up with on a cold night for a feel-good story. But if you’re looking for an in-depth and insightful literary experience related to the incredibly complex nature of Middle-eastern affairs then this would be a wise choice.

Two main characters drive the plot: the American, Arwood Hobbes, whom we first meet as a US Army private manning Checkpoint Zulu at the very end of Desert Storm in 1991. There he meets a British reporter, Thomas Benton, who tends to take on war correspondent duties to avoid his frustrating home life. They get caught up in a horrific attack where they try to save the life of a girl in a green dress…and fail.

That’s the set-up but most of the novel takes place 22 years later. These two men have lost contact with one another long ago but out of the blue, another girl in a green dress is caught in another attack but this time it is caught on video which subsequently goes viral. Arwood contacts Benton and they set out to try to achieve what they couldn’t the first time: save the girl in the green dress.

I chose this book because of the fine reputation its author has built following the publication of his first book, Norwegian by Night. But as a retired member of the US military who served during Desert Storm as well as during much of the on-going build-up to the mess that we currently have in the region, I found more than my share of connections. The author’s own extensive background working with several agencies in the region including NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations), the UN, etc, has given him great insight on how things work (and don’t work). All of his characters ring true, and Arwood Hobbes in particular, is a comedic masterpiece in the same vein as Captain John Yossarian in Catch-22.

This is not a military book, nor is it an “action” novel despite there being quite a lot of action occurring, including a well-imagined hostage situation in the final third of the book. In fact, I struggle to classify it in any particular way which, I suppose, is a good thing. There is a lot of social commentary from the author via the characters and he doesn’t pull any punches on the overall effectiveness of those trying to help out those innocent human beings that get caught up in the nightmare that is modern war. There were several times when that got a little heavy-handed and I felt like I was being lectured for living in a world that would let such a complex atrocity get to its current level. And that’s the main reason this one doesn’t get 5 stars from me. The writing is superb, the characters vibrant, and the story is most definitely a worthy one to be told.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,271 reviews117 followers
October 10, 2020
The Girl in Green is the second novel by American novelist and international policy specialist, Derek B. Miller. The audio version is read by Robert Slade. It’s late March 1991, and United States Army Private Arwood Hobbes is at the northern edge of Checkpoint Zulu, “maintaining a vigilant perimeter” in Iraq’s newly-brokered peace, when a British journalist from the Times wanders up.

Thomas Benton is a seasoned war correspondent who’s after the story from a local perspective. With some encouragement from Arwood, he walks toward nearby Samawah, intent on interviews and ice cream. A surprise attack sees Hobbes and Benton trying to rescue a villager, “the girl in green”, but the situation somehow ends badly, leading to their removal from the area and an eventual “other-than-honourable” discharge for Hobbes.

Fast forward twenty-two years, when a lingering feeling of guilt and a YouTube clip see Hobbes and Benton once again trying to rescue “the girl in green”. Is it human design or divine intervention that sees the original players of the drama and its aftermath gathered together again? Their mission is surely insane and bound to fail!

As with Norwegian By Night, Miller gives the reader an original plot with plenty of action, a twist or two, and a thrilling climax. Generous doses of tension are relieved by the banter between the characters, which is often blackly funny. Miller’s characters are wholly believable and, for all their quirks and very human flaws, especially appealing.

Miller’s considerable personal experience in both conflict zones and policy making is apparent on every page and he raises several thought provoking topics, including the intricate coordination and extensive diplomatic skills required in hostage negotiations, the crazy Catch 22 in the Department of Veteran Affairs that exists for veterans needing psychological counselling, the failure of foreign organisations to become familiar with the language, politics and customs of the countries they are purporting to aid, and the fate of national staff of NGOs when their employers withdraw due to escalating hostilities.

Miller gives the reader a novel that is topical and highly relevant in today’s world. Fans of Norwegian By Night will not be disappointed with Miller’s latest literary foray and will be hoping for more from this talented author soon. The Girl in Green is exciting, insightful and entertaining: another brilliant read.
Profile Image for Lori.
87 reviews9 followers
August 29, 2017
Derek B. Miller is an international policy specialist. He’s an expert on the history, culture and political systems of countries he studies. In other words ... he’s up on current events! "The Girl In Green" takes place at the end of the Gulf War in 1991 and perfectly captures the complicated Iraq-Syria relations and the West’s failure to provide relief to the desperate plight of refugees left from the affects of war. Private Arwood Hobbes and Brittish journalist Thomas Benton witness the slaughter of Shiite civilians by the Iraqi army and cannot prevent the cold-blooded murder of a young girl in a green dress. The experience haunts both men for years. And then, twenty-two years later, a shocking news footage of an insurgent attack in Iraq reunites the two men in a desperate and risky attempt to save a girl in a green dress shown in the video. Déjà vu. The story isn’t a typical series of cunning “cat and mouse” maneuvers - it has poetic descriptions at times and unexpected humor.
Profile Image for Kasa Cotugno.
2,323 reviews430 followers
June 21, 2021
Definitely one of the best books of the year, and January's only a week old. Miller wrote one of the best books of recent years, Norwegian by Night, a book that remains years after being read, and this promises to do the same. His first-hand experiences and authorship maturity combine to produce thoughtful books, but Girl in Green is a true rarity -- one that resonates with reports from the nightly news and yet provides insights beyond the camera. The frontpiece provides what will haunt a reader as the story intensifies and becomes almost unbearable in its realistic portrayal of a hostage confrontation with ISIS: "Inspired by many actual events." Just as haunting is a passage toward the end which I'll not divulge since it would be too much of a spoiler. I'll only reveal it's an observation of boundaries and landscape. Kudos.
Profile Image for Paltia.
633 reviews85 followers
June 29, 2019
Arwood and Thomas - what a dynamic duo. Follow them on their adventures in the Middle East as they, and the lucky others in their orbit, attempt to show they can dance and rock and roll. This would make a great movie. Lots of suspense and laugh out loud comic relief. Some, in the story, and in real life, think of Arwood as a ‘troglodyte’. I, on the other hand would love to hang out with him any day. He’s a hero.
Profile Image for Alex Cantone.
Author 3 books32 followers
November 29, 2016
In 1991, at Checkpoint Zulu Southern Iraq after Operation Desert Storm, American soldier Arwood Hobbes meets "Times" reporter Thomas Benton, the one bored, the other itching to find out the real story. Benton reaches a Shi'ite town only to be bombarded by Sunni helicopter gunships. He tries to reach the safety of the checkpoint with 'the girl in green' and Hobbes deserts his post to help. They are surrounded by insurgents and the girl is shot dead in cold blood.

Fast forward 22 years. Benton receives a call from Hobbes, back in Iraq to redress earlier injustices and gets him to view a video of another girl in green, this time one they can try to save. They are reunited with Swedish refugee relief worker Märta Ström to affect an unlikely rescue.

Miller's background with the UN and NGO's in conflict zones around the world gives us insights into the complexities of the problems in an ancient landscape where conflicts can be measured in millennia. As Hobbes observes "...forget the bible; this place has been populated since the Sumerians; that's six thousand years....the place has to be haunted...it's a ghost factory."

People's movements are written in the present tense, giving a sense of 'real time', and past tense reserved for historical reflections. There's the absurdity of well-meaning but misguided case officers, offering platitudes and motherhood statements in English, which have no parallel in the Arabic language.

Arguable, the best characters are the minor ones: the Assyrian medic who risks his life to deliver a message to a Yezidi storekeeper to pass on to ISIL, his fate left as a footnote in history. Hobbes finds his calling, yet I felt let down by the ending, where Benton is reunited with his family in England, leaving other stories untold.
Profile Image for Ken Fredette.
961 reviews50 followers
September 19, 2018
This time I'm back in 1972 when I was overseas in the service in Turkey. The people there weren't interested in traveling the world like American's were. Derek B. Miller creates characters that seem to come out of the Korean War in the TV series Mash. Only 40 years later. It's 1991 and the aftermath of the Kuwaiti war a journalist, Thomas Benton, meets an American private, Arwood Hobbes. And they see some action where a young girl dies in Arwood's arms. We take a sabbatical for 22 years and Arwood sees the girl in the green dress again on TV and contacts Benton and sweet talks him into going to the place the girl in the green dress was. It gets complicated and has families torn apart but it is a good read from an American author.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
376 reviews46 followers
November 1, 2020
This is a beautiful but disturbing read. Disturbing because it highlights the impact of war on everyone's lives, even for those who try to return to normal lives. Arwood Hobbes has joined the American Army and as the read opens he is bored to death propping himself up on a gun that he has never used. His company is deployed at Checkpoint Zulu, 240 kms from Kuwaiti. Peace has been declared, Desert Storm is over. Thomas Benton, English War Correspondent joins Hobbes and in conversation points out that the only real news he's going to get will be from the Shiites in a nearby town. An argument develops between Hobbes and Benton, Benton wants an ice cream! And, whether it makes sense to cross the border in search of one. Benton heads for the town but in a short time an Iraqui helicopter starts to fire on the town, there is a mass scramble of people running everywhere, Benton eventually gets out and in the process he comes upon a small girl in a green dress and he takes her with him. Hobbes, concerned that he is to blame for Benton's predicament, leaves his post, technically AWOL and where both men become embroiled in the attack with the Iraqi forces, a Colonel kills the young local girl by shooting her in the back as they try to protect her.

Something happens to Hobbes his mind can't calculate the event that has just taken place and after further events with his commanding officer he is taken away by military police. Benton gets his marching orders but not without first threatening to make a reporting furore if Hobbes is court martialed.

Both men end up at a UNHCR camp, Benton is now reporting on the food drops from the US air force which in itself is a shambles. Another incident occurs, a small boy walks into the middle of a minefield, again Hobbes takes it on himself to rescue the boy who has suffered severe eye damage and is bleeding profusely. A great crowd of refugees has formed alongside Military Personnel from a multitude of nations praying that Hobbes will not misstep onto a landmine.

The men return to their respective countries but the events witnessed causes changes for them both. Benton's lack of life eventually sees his marriage fail while Hobbes with his "Other than Honourable" discharge leaves him in a twilight zone. However while gypsying around the country he makes an unusual contact who teaches him about supply and demand. This is his ticket to change his life.

Refugee camp of Dohuk…22 years after their first meeting Hobbes phones Benton, a girl in a green dress has been on the news. Benton is now in his sixties and just going through the motions until retirement. Hobbes in his forties is really alive with the change of his fortunes and now, a chance to put right the wrongs of the past. From here on the story moves quickly through events with Hobbes in his usual gung-ho attitude puts everyone's lives at risk in order to fulfil his revenge.

The read ends with the author leaving one final unexpected twist to this story.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,690 reviews205 followers
January 23, 2023
“What happened was that a girl died in Arwood’s arms. It was a girl in a green dress, one who bore a striking resemblance to the girl in the mortar video he’s hoping to find. The first girl’s death was pointless and cruel. It was also invisible. No one saw it. The girl in the video, though—her death, which was also pointless and cruel, was nevertheless seen by the entire world. The first one happened in front of us. The second one happened in front of us all.”

As the book opens, Private Arwood Hobbes, US Army, is standing guard near the border of Iraq and Kuwait in 1991. The Gulf War has just ended, and peace has been declared, though this “declared peace” has not stopped the killings. British journalist Thomas Benton talks Hobbes into allowing him to venture beyond the checkpoint. Events transpire, resulting in an Iraqi girl in a green dress being shot in front of them. Twenty-five years later, Hobbes contacts Benton and asks him to go back to Iraq. He has seen a girl in a green dress on a video, whom he believes is the same girl. Another main player in this drama is Märta Ström, a Swedish woman leading a humanitarian aid organization, which is trying to help the people of the country.

This book zooms out to relate the overall picture of what is going on in Iraq, and also zooms in to the details of what happens at a personal level. At the higher level, it explores the complex situation in Iraq, with its many different agencies, factions, tribes, cultures, and religious beliefs. It works well at a personal level too, by examining the impact of the shooting of the girl in the green on both men.

This is an intense book, but the author skillfully mixes in humor, particularly in the conversations between Hobbes and Benton. The main characters are likeable and memorable. It is also a book about lingering guilt, and quest for redemption. It highlights the senselessness of war. It points out many misunderstandings and oversimplifications that have occurred.

At times it reads as a thriller, but it contains so much more. It is well-written. It provides great insight into the region. The author has an extensive background and history in Iraq, and it shows. He has done a fabulous job of combining a riveting plot, while embedding educational elements that will enhance our understanding of this part of our world.

Memorable Passages:
“The only thing worse than evil was deciding that evil didn’t matter.”

“We are supposed to keep a distance, but sometimes our humanity interferes with our humanitarianism. It is a failing that is our most redeeming quality.”

Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,168 reviews542 followers
February 4, 2017
Well written and gritty. It reminds me in more than one way to Catch-22. Especially in the tone, and in the basic vulnerability of the protagonists. The two main characters are superbly framed and not cardboard or cartoon like.

But I thought too that several aspects were just too contrived, convenient to pass reality muster. I know too many desert vets and men/women like my brother who have done more than double stints.

Human life is not held to equal values; not even when it is "ours". Regardless of who "ours" becomes today. That's exactly why the premise and original situation (the 1991 girl in green) was, IMHO, so well done.

This is gritty war copy. It is intrinsically sad, desperate, and often horrific. I got the feeling while reading it that I get when I read Southern USA grit. lit. Laugh? Cry? Stomach-turning! Which is not enjoyment by any definition.

This region is a terrible cabal of human rights destroying belief systems, associations to "loyalty" which flex and curve, and has general mindset for tribal or 7th or 8th century sensibilities tied to 20th century general weaponry. Women and animals have it much worse whenever the "uppers" disagree. Normal times are just mutilation and basic slavery for both.

The aspects with regard to PTSD? Not incorrect, but fiction full-blown in most long term "reaction", IMHO, not parsing well with the reality of such conditions I have seen/witnessed. It's erudite in tone, style, message without seeming to be so. That isn't a bad thing, but if it had been far more the way soldiers talk in reality, it would have been a 4 star.

It's exactly in the tradition of Catch-22 for a different war and time.
Profile Image for Cindy.
1,422 reviews21 followers
February 10, 2017
A Goodreads win! At checkpoint Zulu near the Kuwait border 2 men, a journalist and an American soldier, attempt to save a young girl in a green dress. Unfortunately they witness her brutal murder. Twenty years later they have the opportunity to once again save a girl in a green dress. Both men are obsessed as they seek to rid themselves of guilt. This is just the tip of the iceberg as the author, Derek Miller, keeps us in the middle east where war and peace are indistinguishable. I learned so much yet understood so little. Kurds, Sunnis, ISIL, Shiites, tribes, territories, brutality, so much going on that my head was spinning. A great history lesson for me. Very informative, haunting, and complex.
Profile Image for Brendan Monroe.
555 reviews147 followers
November 24, 2020
Why did I carry on with this one? I'm really not sure. Like the doughnut I had for breakfast, it's full of empty calories and I regret it in hindsight.

But it's even worse than that because, unlike the doughnut, I didn't even enjoy it at the time. It was just easy, far too easy, and I raced through solely in order to finish it, when I really should have just stopped after 30-some-pages as you can see it all coming a mile away.

Monica, another GR reviewer here, referred to this as "dick lit" and that sums this one up perfectly. It's the counterpart to "chick lit," and equally as trashy.

The plot couldn't be simpler. Thomas Benton, a British reporter, chats with an American solder, Arwood Hobbes, manning a checkpoint near an Iraqi border town at the end of the Gulf War. Benton then goes into the town to interview some people. He has the misfortune to arrive just before Saddam Hussein's forces helicopter into the town, which is full of anti-Saddam Iraqis, and as those forces are blowing all the townspeople to bits, he grabs a random girl wearing a green dress and tries to escape with her. Arwood deserts his post, feeling some sense of responsibility for the reporter he allowed to get past him, and joins the two just in time to see one of Saddam's nasty commanders shoot and kill the girl.

Despite being in the army or whatever, Arwood is never the same, striding unthinkingly into mine fields and such, until one day ...

Flash forward 21 years or something, and footage of a mortar attack that is making the rounds on all the news stations seems to show the same girl in green. Was that her? Was it the same girl? The dress is also green!

No, of course it isn't, because our two main characters literally watched her die, and this more than 20 years ago, so even if she was still alive, which she definitely isn't, she'd look about as similar to the girl who got shot as the Afghan Girl looked 20-some-odd years when National Geographic-photographer Steve McCurry tracked her down in that Afghan village. Which is to say, she'd look like a completely different person because time ages you and being a woman in much of the Middle East definitely ages you.

But whatever, a plot device is required, and the titular girl in the green dress is this book's MacGuffin. Despite being literally the name of the book and the person around whom the "story," such as it is, is set into motion, the girl could have been a jade diamond for all we learn about her. Oddly though, despite being required to act as only "scared girl in green" the entire book, at the very end we suddenly get a handful of pages from her perspective, after all the events of the story have been wrapped up. And why? Why now, when it doesn't even matter?

Go figure.

God, I can't believe that I finished this thing. I love desert tales, so perhaps that's the reason. I read all of Ali and Nino too, despite really disliking that one as well. So I'll chalk it up to just Middle Eastern/desert appeal.

The characters are all pretty annoying, most particularly Arwood who is written to be the quintessential ignorant American. He basically spends the entire book lecturing all the Iraqis on how backward their country is, and spewing snarky one-liners.

There's no character development here, for anyone, and the author stuffs the worst, most absurd lines into his characters' mouths, essentially to show how much he knows about the Kurds, the Yazidis, and Middle Eastern politics more generally. The fact that he has characters working at a remote Middle Eastern outpost snarkily telling other characters working at a remote Middle Eastern outpost these things is the absurd thing, because they would obviously know who the Kurds and Yazidis are, and other basic points of Middle Eastern politics.

The author explains these things so laboriously no doubt because this book's target audience hasn't read anything by a reputable source on the Middle East before, but they might have once read a Jack Ryan novel, and they probably saw that George Clooney Gulf War thriller "Three Kings."

Don't read this. Eat a box of doughnuts instead. You'll hate yourself less.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
837 reviews
February 8, 2019
2.5★ Mostly fairly ordinary, although some parts got a bit interesting. Being set mainly in the Middle East, there was more politics than I was perhaps prepared for. And since I was listening as an audiobook, I couldn't flip back and forth to remind myself of what was happening, so some of that went over my head.

But there were also some holes toward the end where I didn't feel things were explained as well as they could have been - unless they were explained and I missed them if my mind drifted.

Possibly better as a book to be read normally rather than listened to.
Profile Image for Jayesh Naithani.
178 reviews15 followers
April 22, 2018
The Other Girl in Green.

A Middle-East thriller. Inspired by actual events. Circumstances, relationship, consequences, drama in Samawah, Dohuk, Mosul, Sinjar - in Iraq. Mixing fiction with facts, myth with reality and deftly blurring the lines between the two with some fantastic storytelling.
Profile Image for Paul Lockman.
243 reviews6 followers
September 1, 2017
After recently enjoying Norwegian by Night recently, I just had to read The Girl in Green. The main characters are Thomas Benton, a British journalist and Arwood Hobbes, a disaffected US army officer. Marta, a Swedish humanitarian aid worker also appears regularly. The first brief section of the book is set in the Gulf War in the early 1990s near the border of Iraq and Kuwait, then the majority of the book is set some 20 years later when circumstances bring the three of them together again in Iraq. Hobbes and Benton feel guilty about a girl in a green dress that was shot in front of them in the Gulf War and have come back to Iraq to – well to redeem themselves I suppose for not having been able to prevent her from her fate.
I do think Derek B. Miller is a very talented, intelligent and creative writer and I really like the characters and the clever and witty dialogue, which is often laced with absurdity and irony. After reading Norwegian by Night I asked him via Goodreads whether he was influenced by Catch-22 and the laugh out loud absurdity of some of the situations and dialogue in that book. He replied ‘I've wondered about Heller's influence on me and I still wonder about it. In one way — sure, absolutely. But there's more to it. I surely saw 300 episodes of MASH before I actually read Catch-22 (which of course was directly inspired by it). So there's also that. But I also think that Heller (and I, and many others) are drawing from some original Jewish source material anchored in an attuned eye for the absurd and a nearly pathological incapacity NOT to draw attention to it.’
There’s a very interesting interview with him here: https://bookpage.com/interviews/20812...

There is a bizarre incident where the US Air Force is going to drop rations, in this case frozen chickens, but doesn’t do it correctly.…’As she had anticipated the air force started pushing pallets out of the transport planes from much too close and much too low. The parachutes opened, but the pallets of frozen chickens did not land well. The air force should have used sling-load helicopters, but they didn’t because there was no doctrine to tell them to do so, and pushing pallets out of planes was faster, cheaper, and more dramatic.
Some of the pallets were cushioned in their landing by the soft bodies of the Kurds, who were crushed under them and died.
As the seals broke on others, the chickens broke free and chased the uncrushed, who scattered like free range bowling pins.
Thomas Benton, Arwood Hobbes and Marta, take shelter from the flying frozen chickens in a US armoured personnel carrier. A US army officer and a French army officer are also inside it and they get talking….’Clearly,’ said the French officer, ‘it is the air force. This is what I have come to expect from the air force. I expect it because dropping things on people is what the air force does. Drop aid to the refugees. Drop aid on the refugees. One little preposition to separate them, and no doctrine in place to draw the distinction. One little word and voila. Crepe a la Kurd.’
Arwood Hobbes makes attempt at cracking jokes but no one laughs and Herb, the US army officer, ends up asking him if he has PTSD. To which Arwood replies…’Well, there’s a phrase. Post-traumatic stress disorder. I wouldn’t call it post-traumatic, no,’ he said, as three men about twenty metres away grabbed a chicken from a woman who was standing with two small children, and then pushed her to the ground as she tried to resist. ‘I admit I’ve been wondering for the last few days about why I can’t sleep, and when I do, I dream of strangling dinosaurs with piano wire. I don’t think it’s because of something I did. I think it’s something I didn’t do. I think I have pre-traumatic stress disorder. I think I’m stressed out from not being able to do the right thing. And then, to top it off, the army has decided that my inaction wasn't inactive enough, and by not doing even less I was doing too much. And so I’m getting bad paper when I’m done. I’m not convinced my brain is working on the same frequency as the world around me. I mean, look out the window. How can I be the only one who finds this hilarious?’ he asked. He did not laugh, though.
In the acknowledgements, the author tells us that this episode with the frozen chickens really did happen.

We get some great insights into the world of humanitarian aid workers like Marta and the way the Arabic speaking world can be alienated by the West’s good intentions…..’Marta needs a cigarette now. She does not have one. And so she holds her Bic fountain pen as though it is the cigarette that she ought to have. She is sitting on an orange chair at a white table, listening to a briefing provided by a Swiss-based research organisation concerning affairs in eastern Syria that might affect operations in northern Iraq. It is early evening, and she is already tired.
The researcher is young – late twenties. She has blonde hair and eyes that speak of her excitement at being part of something darker than herself, as though proximity to horror somehow might strengthen her own character. In most cases, though, it’s the opposite. It unravels us. But Marta isn’t about to explain this to her.
The girl began her presentation, some thirty minutes ago, by quoting Thierry Lefebvre’s 1927 article ‘Le vilayet de Mossoul’, telling everyone that ‘Ninawa is no longer Iraq and not yet Kurdistan’. This remains true, Marta thinks, but as a piece of analysis, sort of leaves you hanging. The girl then seemed to prove Marta’s point – and not her own – by focussing the rest of her talk on change and the future rather than on continuity and the past, which was the West’s first error over here…………….
Marta’s national staff once explained to her – after she insisted that their annual report be translated into Arabic for the first time – that almost none of these words (e.g. peace-building, civil liberties, conflict sensitivity, confidence-building measures, resilience, social cohesion) have homologues in Arabic. In fact, the ideas themselves are so foreign and often irrelevant that Arabic speakers, in speaking to one another, simply insert the English term into their conversation. This happens directly in front of Western diplomats, who are oblivious to its significance.

Arwood Hobbes is the most outspoken and arguably the most unlikeable of the characters in the book. He received an ‘other than honourable discharge’ from the army in the Gulf War and is disgruntled, disenfranchised, any number of dis- words, and has a chip on his shoulder and plenty of attitude. In this scene he is talking to Jamal, a local man who is their driver, and Jamal attempts to explain how some of the locals are feeling…..’No one wants to be weak anymore. They are tied of being weak. They want to return to a time when they were strong and united. They cannot stand the humiliation anymore. The West does not understand our humiliation.
Arwood replies..’And you think that if these people felt proud and respected, they’d stop packing ice-cream trucks with explosives to kill as many children as possible? They need jobs and a hug?’
‘I’m saying there are reasons.’
‘There are always reasons Jamal, but not justifications. Listen, I’ve been watching these douchebags for years. These guys aren’t choosing between a job in auto mechanics and beheading infidels. Yeah, they’re discontented, and maybe they’ve got a good reason too. Fair enough. The thing is, there are a lot of hard-luck cases in the world, and a lot of places on the losing side of history. But not all those places celebrate mass murder because they’re angry. See, little Johnny Hardluck might feel bad one day and say to his mummy, ‘Mummy, I feel so bad I’m going to cut somebody’s head off.’ That could happen in Pittsburgh. We have psychos, too. But how Mummy responds is kind of what makes one place different from another. So if his mummy says, ‘That’s a good idea, Johnny, you slice them up real good, and if you die, we’ll be extra proud of you,’ then we know what kind of people we’re dealing with. Around here, you kill a hundred children with an exploding ice-cream truck, and your family gets a pension and its own website. That doesn’t happen in Pittsburgh. That is not a minor distinction. When we act badly, we at least feel really bad about it, and try to find ways to avoid it later. These people do exactly the opposite. That’s why we’re better than them. Got it?’
‘They are being manipulated by the elites.’
‘Jamal, you can only manipulate ideas that make sense to people already. If an imam gets on his soapbox and tells all the Sunnis to go out and kill all the New York Yankee fans, they wouldn’t make much headway. Because it wouldn’t make any kind of sense. Go kill the Shiites? That makes sense. Unfortunately everything happening down the mountain, and even up here, makes sense to people, whether they like it or not…..It’s like this Jamal: we will never get along with anyone – not now, not later, not ever – if their mamas don’t dance and their daddies don’t rock and roll. Because it’s mind over matter, my friend. And you cannot change people’s minds about what matters.’

The author has worked as an international policy analyst, and he has a PhD in International Relations and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Iraqi war so you get the feeling much of what happens in the book may be a pretty close representation of at least some of the mess that is happening in the Middle East. In some ways it’s not an easy read. There are some really unpleasant scenes where, amongst other things, people are ruthlessly murdered. Overall I came away not quite as invested in the characters and the story as much as I was in Norwegian by Night, but nonetheless I still enjoyed the book immensely.
Profile Image for Emilie Morscheck.
Author 11 books5 followers
August 16, 2016
Thank you for my giveaway copy!

Reading this book was an adventure into the kind of world I'd never experienced before. The war in Iraq mainly occurred while I was a child, and therefore my knowledge of the period is limited. However, I don't a lack of knowledge will stop what intended to be a thriller, not a history lesson. Miller does an excellent job at filling in the gaps, explaining the more important parts of the history of the middle east. His inspiration was borne from his PhD dissertation which concerned the role of media in the war. And this is reflected in the plot and characters.

However, I couldn't help but wonder who the main character was supposed to be, and what point Miller was trying to convey. The story frequently shifts between a number of characters but starts with Arwood Hobbes, an American soldier stationed at Checkpoint Zulu. We are never given many insights into his character and his arc feels incomplete. Thomas Benton is our every man, a British journalist with an interest in reporting foreign stories. Quickly he becomes the centre of the story as he is subject to Arwood's schemes. Overall he is a passive character and his motivations are hardly strong enough to justify his position of main character. Marta, the Swedish relief worker is no more than a conduit for Hobbes and Benton to gain access to areas restricted to Westerners. This leaves the girl in green, however the titular character is not really a character, but an idea, a symbol of the brutality. The girl in green is two girls, twenty years apart, simply connected by her garments.

The impression I am left with is that this book, which may aesthetically appear as a thriller, (and it certainly is), concerns itself with the side of the world we choose to ignore. Where the brutality doesn't conform with our "Western" sensibilities. It aims to tell a story we all know and forces us to acknowledge the truth of the situation.

And while I enjoyed these aspects I can't help but feel that The Girl in Green was "made for Hollywood".
Profile Image for Stephanie Anze.
657 reviews110 followers
April 25, 2017
3.5 rounded to 4

Its 1991 and Arthur Hobbes is a US soldier manning the line that divides Checkpoint Zulu and the Kuwait border. When Thomas Benton, a British journalist, approaches him, they begin a rather honest conversation about the end of the (Dessert Storm) war and the "peace" that follows. Benton mentions he would like to cross the Kuwait border for a few hours, to take some pictures and talk to the locals. Hobbes does not deter him. When he does cross, insurgents attack, chaos ensues and the consequences of their actions will haunt them both.

This is the first time I´ve read a work by Derek B. Miller. Initially, his style did not completely agree with me. Using pop culture references, satire, and wry humor Miller writes a narrative about the war(s) in the Middle East and the US involvement in them. At many times funny and others profound, this novel was different. Arthur Hobbes is either crazy or a genius or maybe both. However, to deny his heart and humanity would be a mistake. Thomas Benton is more grounded and thoughtful. Hobbes and Benton certainly make an interesting duo. This book was as much about the characters as it was about the settings. Ultimately, Miller drives home a powerful point: bringing peace is a complex operation.

This novel brought to mind a very fond school memory. I do not recall what grade I was in exactly but in my social studies class we were asked to draw any pictures or symbols that (to us) represented peace. The next day, the drawings were collected.. Each student recieved someone else´s drawing and was given about ten minutes to do what they wanted to it (short of ripping it up). When the drawings were collected again and given back to their owners, we were told to try to fix them, to the best of our ability. Needless to say, no one could really undo much (one girl had to use quite a bit of white out). After that, my teacher lead us into a discussion about war, peace and the difficulty of transitioning from one to the another. Its an experience that sticks with me to this day.
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