The Woman Who Lost Her Soul Summary & Study Guide

Bob Shacochis
This Study Guide consists of approximately 58 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul.
This section contains 676 words
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The Woman Who Lost Her Soul Summary & Study Guide Description

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis.

This complex novel has two central narrative threads. The first has elements of a political spy thriller spanning continents, decades, mysteries, and brutal acts of violence. The second has elements of a socio-cultural contemplation on America's place, both behind the scenes and in front of the curtain, on the world stage.

The novel develops these aspects of its epic narrative in five parts. Book One moves back and forth between events in 1998 and 1996, primarily in Haiti. In 1998, human rights lawyer and advocate Tom Harrington joins an investigation into the death of Jackie Scott, a photojournalist with whom he became involved in the last days of the Haitian Revolution in 1996. As he looks into her death, he recalls various details of his original relationship with her – her wildness, her sexuality, his own sexual response to her, her interest in voudou, her shifting identity (her real name, he discovers, is Dorothy Chambers), and her mysterious relationship with a U.S. Special Forces operative named Eville (eh-VILLE) Burnette. Book One concludes with Harrington returning to his home life in Miami, having satisfied himself that justice has been served.

Book Two shifts to the mid-1940’s and to Eastern Europe in the aftermath of World War Two. Narration describes traumatic events in the life of a young Croatian refugee, Stjepan Kovacevic (who, the book reveals, eventually changed his name to Steven Chambers and became Dorothy Chambers’ father) and his mother Marija as they escape from the war torn Balkans. Book Two concludes with a reference to how young Stjepan passed on his desire for revenge on his tormentors, both personal and cultural, to his family – the implication being that he passed that desire on to Dorothy.

Book Three focuses on Dorothy – specifically, her late teens, which she spent at school in Istanbul, far away from her strange, estranged mother and always looking forward to the next visit from her unpredictable diplomat father. She becomes romantically involved with young Muslim rebel Osman, who presents her with a beautiful blue bracelet that, over time and over every book of the narrative, becomes her most precious possession. Meanwhile, narration reveals that Dorothy has a long and complicated history of being sexually abused by her father, and that he wants her to help him with a tricky diplomatic mission that involves her posing as a prostitute. Dorothy reluctantly agrees, but the mission goes drastically wrong, and she ends up on the run, taking refuge with Osman, who is in turn killed by rival rebels. Dorothy returns to a dull life with her mother in America.

In Book Four, the narrative chronicles the history of Eville Burnette, explaining his involvement with government special forces and agencies, with Steven and Dorothy Chambers and their Secret Service work, and with Tom Harrington. This book concludes with a revisiting of Dorothy’s apparent death, with narration revealing that Burnette accompanied her body back to the United States.

Book Five begins with a scene that reveals Dorothy’s death was actually staged, given that her secret service work in Haiti had put her life in danger. A voudou priest gave her a potion that made her only seem dead, another priest reviving her in Miami and sending her into hiding. As she recovers from the shock of being both temporarily dead and brought back to life, she and Burnette take a holiday together and become romantically involved, only facing the question of what’s going to happen to Dorothy when her father forces the issue. The second half of the chapter describes the aftermath of Dorothy’s apparent death in a bombing in Africa – specifically, her final encounters with both Burnette and her father, and Burnette’s being moved to another posting, in which he’s later made responsible for the supervision for, and care of, the failing Steven Chambers. At a diplomatically important funeral in the Balkans, Burnette finds himself at Dorothy’s grave, contemplating their relationship and their history, and how the desire for revenge can corrupt even the most wholesome human soul.

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