Behind the Lens, Jeannee Sacken
Contemporary Romantic Suspense, 436 pp
March 9, 2021, Ten 16 Press
Reviewed by Lisa Lickel, www.LisaLickel.com
Behind the Lens is a stunning debut novel ultimately about friendship and family set amidst cultural upheaval. War in modern day Afghanistan might be expected to work one way, but war on the home front in a blended family situation is always a whisper influencing everything Annie Hawkins does, wherever she goes as a photojournalist. Divorced over the danger she constantly seeks, Annie shares her daughter with her ex-husband while working all over the world as a prize-winning photographer. When the stars almost align for Annie to fulfill a years-long promise to her former roommate and best friend Darya now operating a girls school in Afghanistan, Annie leaves home again to teach a class on photography during the midst of a power struggle between her daughter and her daughter’s stepmother. It’s been eight years since Annie has been back, and immediately long-suppressed memories resurface in episodes of disturbing PTSD. Only this time the memories reveal facts and offer clues about her current hazardous situation.
Annie’s friend also has a teenage daughter with a secret war going on. When Annie finally gets Darya’s daughter to open up, the truth is as ugly as it gets. Annie seeks a balance of friendship and promises while reflecting on her underlying guilt as a parent who regularly abandons her own child. Complicating matters further is Annie’s trust issues with a complex man who rescued her long ago and his attempts to protect her now.
Author Jeannée Sacken brings life to a crippling and maniacal segment of life in a turbulent nation. Step into the reality and horrors of not only the subjects of a photojournalist but the aftermath affecting Annie’s life and career. Experience the great joys and beauty of a country and people caught in the crossfire of deep-seated tradition and modern extremism with the bitter sorrows of terrorism in the stories Annie must live in order to tell.
Although I highly recommend this story for high school readers and up, some language, authentic violence, and mild adult situations lead me to caution parents to check it out first. Told from Annie’s viewpoint throughout, the story ebbs and flows in tides of pleasure and fear as Annie remembers the past, searches to explain why she takes risky assignments, and surrenders to her passion for telling story from behind a camera lens.
Reviewer Lisa Lickel writes from the peaceful rolling hills of western Wisconsin. A multi-published, best-selling and award-winning novelist, she also writes short stories and radio theater, occasional articles, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, and a freelance editor. She and her husband travel and enjoy family time.