Everything in the desert has a natural enemy. For some young girls it’s the marines. Here is a searing inside look at the military and the often bizarre subculture that surrounds it.
The approach to the Mojave town of Twentynine Palms is a long, dusty parade route of fraternal lodges, cheap motels, and cross streets with names that beckon — North Star and Lupine and Ocotillo — and front yards with pit bulls that tell you to forget about it. Then, the town itself, split in half by the age-old conflict of violence and beauty: North of the main drag is the world’s largest Marine Corps base; south is Joshua Tree National Park, sanctuary for freak-show plants and extreme geography.
In 1991 it all collided when two young girls were savagely murdered by a troubled Marine who had recently returned from the Gulf War. One girl was about to turn sixteen, the other twenty-one. How did they come to find themselves in a certain apartment on a certain night in Twentynine Palms? What family and cultural legacies dogged them and ultimately sealed their doom? How are America’s children faring in the shadow of military outposts among those who are sworn to protect the country?
Exquisitely and inexorably, Deanne Stillman uses this tragedy as a prism through which she explores not only the murders and the families involved, but a rootless culture of fatherless families, shattered dreams, and relentless violence. In haunting, vivid prose, she creates a far-reaching story of America itself, carrying us into the empty white heart of the Mojave, as we meet and come to know the modern nomads who turn to the West for salvation only to be devoured by its false promise.
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- William Morrow & Company