An American fringe radical group, the Symbionese Liberation Army drew big headlines in 1974. Their kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst of Hearst newspaper fame, and subsequent conversion of her into a gun-toting bank robber ruled the media. In May of 1974 six members of the gang would die in a shootout/conflagration in a small home in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles. Four hundred L.A. police officers, CHP, and FBI agents peppered the house with thousands of rounds of ammunition and the house burned to the ground. Away from the site, members of the SLA Bill and Emily Harris, along with Patty Hearst watched from their hotel room. Later the Harrises, Hearst, and Wendy Yoshimura would flee cross-country to a farmhouse in the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains aided by sportswriter Jack Scott.
Brooklynite (at the time of publication; always plug Brooklyn, you can't go wrong) Susan Choi wrote American Woman which falls under the umbrella of historical fiction. It follows the relationship between a kidnapped heiress, her two captors/comrades, fellow fugitive Jenny Shimada, and their abettor Rob Frazer. The story follows closely the real events which happened in the '70s while changing only a few details. Through inner dialog of the characters, Susan Choi brings forth the conflicts and the moral dilemma they faced. Character Jenny Shimada figures prominently as the woman who forms a relationship with "Pauline," the kidnapped heiress while "minding" her in a secluded farmhouse in New York. Choi writes in a unique style, with crystal clarity when it comes to character's thoughts and viewpoints. The loneliness, or aloneness of Jenny Shimada, who must assume a false identity, and come to terms with the imprisonment of her lover, is striking. The richness of the upstate New York countryside also shines out from the pages.
This is an easy book to read, mainly because of the sensation of getting inside someone's head. For want of a better adjective (thesaurus please) the prose is very expository. On the whole it is historically accurate while changing some facts, locations, names, etc. The reader is asked to make their own judgment on the guilt or innocence of the characters, and ponder alone what is America and what is a woman. By the way, the novel was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.