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‘Embassy Wife’: Katie Crouch’s Latest Novel Is Shrewd Story About Intrigue, Humor And A Fraught Diplomacy In Namibia

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Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch’s new novel is set in Namibia where two central characters, American women, are “embassy wives” who have transplanted their lives to follow their husbands to their diplomatic roles.

The women strike up fraught friendships of convenience — but they’re also forged on something more to do with their complicated relationships with their husbands and children and with their understanding that diplomacy is never a free and easy negotiation.

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Highlights from the interview

On living in Namibia with her family

I had the privilege of living in Namibia, so my book sort of spring-boarded off of the experiences that I've had. And this character does not particularly want to live in Namibia, but my experience was vastly different in that I was thrilled to live there...[My] husband is a writer named Peter Orner. He won a Fulbright to go to Namibia and he said, let's go. So I said, sure, having been in my youth quite the adventure traveler, but I didn't realize how hard it would be to actually bring an entire family. And I'd just had a baby. So we went and my son, Roscoe, was six weeks old.

On writing in Namibia

That was sort of where the book originated, was me being a fish-out-of-water, and then just sort of my eyes opening to all of the really interesting things that were going on around me, not just myself. And then, as one writes — thank goodness — you get out of your own head and start looking around at all the amazing things that are happening with people that are around you, especially if you're in a place where you don't live. I just couldn't stop writing about Namibia. It's a really fascinating country. I like to tell people where it is because — not to sort of be didactic — but because I actually didn't know where it was until right before I moved there and it's parked directly above...it used to be part of South Africa and it's parked above South Africa on the western sides of the continent. And it's huge and empty and mostly desert, except where it meets the sea. And the sea is really boiling once you get there, like it's just very, very dramatic topographically.

On returning to Namibia

In real life, I love seeing my daughter have all these new friendships with people that were so different than herself. I love those characters [of children in the novel] too, because it's nice to have children's voices interspersed — you know — especially because there's a lot of room for humor and also just kids will say things that you're thinking. And you're like, "I can't believe you just said that," but that's totally what I was just like. I'm like, "Oh, only, you can get away with that..." I enjoyed watching my daughter, who really, I have to say, she really flourished there. She loved it in the end. She really wants to go back, and my son doesn't remember anything. So he'll just have to go. He doesn't remember. Hee likes to say that he does, but he doesn't...I'm hoping we can go back, absolutely, very soon.

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Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.