What We Are Reading Today: Operation Second Starfish by Susan R. Kayar

Updated 06 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Operation Second Starfish by Susan R. Kayar

A terrorist attack disables a US Navy submarine in dangerously deep waters off the coast of Florida. The navy is compelled to use its least-favorite strategy to complete a rescue of the submarine crew: Send divers to extreme depths. 

Can a team of the navy’s best ultra-deep divers perform this mission? When things go perilously wrong, can a novel approach in diving physiology that has not been fully tested under controlled laboratory conditions save the rescuers? The plot twists back and forth in time between calm and happy days of friends working together in the laboratory, and the drama of the rescue mission. The story is told from the uncommon viewpoint of the rescuers, not the rescued.

In this tale, Susan R. Kayar, Ph.D., a former physiologist in the Decompression Sickness Research Program of the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, weaves together 21st century technology in disabled submarine rescue and saturation diving with 20th century diving physiology, according to a review published on goodreads.com.

It is a thrilling deep-sea adventure that truly captures the emotional camaraderie, life-and-death bravery and can-do spirit of both the rescuers and those trapped deep below on the icy black ocean floor.


Mazen Maarouf brings magical realism to the darkness of war

‘Jokes for the Gunmen,’ on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize, has been translated into English. (Supplied)
Updated 23 October 2019

Mazen Maarouf brings magical realism to the darkness of war

  • ‘Jokes for the Gunmen,’ on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize, has been translated into English by Jonathan Wright and published by Granta Books.
  • It was published in Arabic by Beirut’s Riad El-Rayyes Books in 2015.

CHICAGO: From award-winning Palestinian-Icelandic writer, poet and journalist Mazen Maarouf comes a collection of short stories, “Jokes for the Gunmen,” now translated into English.

Unraveling sometimes fantastical and other times traumatic realities, the stories are mostly from the perspective of a child in a war zone in which life is about survival and how one’s perception of the world can be narrowed through limited circumstances.

Maarouf introduces his readers to narrators who mostly stay nameless, whose stories pick up in the middle of their lives, long after the bombs began to fall and life became about survival rather than living.

He unapologetically explores the depths of a child’s thinking as painful incidents occur and instability ensues in his characters’ lives.

He is unafraid to create uncomfortable situations, and often the accidental outcomes are the ones that seem to help life move forward.

Misunderstandings and misinterpretations often lead characters to their destinies, and in Maarouf’s collection, the only way to take the unforgiving realities of life is to turn them into a joke.

He explores elements of magical realism in his stories, such as when one character’s uncle, a self-proclaimed matador, dies three times in the same week, and one in which a son tells his mother fantastical stories about biscuits.

Dark humor encapsulates each unique story. Maarouf explores dreams, life, jokes, war, relationships, and the contrast between light and dark.

Each of his stories is embedded in a deep reality that cannot be shaken when it comes to war and its aftermath.

There is a harshness that overlays each incident, but one that pushes forward the notion that life must be lived through war.