In April of 2008, Professor Paul Vines commits suicide in his apartment in Berlin. This moment is the culmination of the curiously interwoven stories of three characters: one a criminal psychologist working at Guantanamo Detention Camp Delta, one an FBI agent with a disturbingly familiar detainee locked in an isolation holding cell in JFK airport, and Vines himself, a Georgetown University literature professor working at the American Academy, Berlin.
We watch Vines struggle to teach literature to a seminar of bemused German university students, as he is consumed by mistakes made in his past. Bound by guilt to his ex-wife and estranged son, Vines drifts through his life in Berlin and seeks comfort in an affair with an enchanting, though married, student. In Guantanamo, Cuba, Dr. Laura Ivins assists in the humiliating interrogation of a U.S. citizen (a Hispanic ex-felon and erstwhile Muslim convert) who has been declared, on the slimmest of evidence, an "illegal enemy combatant." Her willingness to participate in this assignment sends her into a slow crisis of conscience that she is determined to stave off long enough to reap the fruits of collaboration, the true banality of evil.
Meanwhile, at JFK airport, U.S. government agent Michael James Dougherty is assigned to investigate a detained tourist--a 57-year old former U.S. citizen turned Swedish national. Through a swift chain of errors-on-the-side-of-caution prompted by Patriot Act procedures, the detainee's questioning quickly snowballs into an incarceration where the man finds himself handcuffed and shackled in an isolation cell, and Michael James is his only link to sanity.
Homeland is both a stimulating narrative that carries the reader through the often unforseen changes that can completely alter lives, and a chilling warning about the consequences of regulations imposed by the U.S. government in the name of security and patriotism. At once a political thriller, a literary novel, and an indictment of the current U.S. administration, Homeland is truly a book for our times.