I found little evidence of a dilemma in this short story with what I consider to be a deceptive title. For me, a dilemma is a situation in which I must make a decision that will damage me the least whether that is in terms of material or more abstract goals. With General Rahmini’s Dilemna by Benson Grayson, there were multiple short terms dilemmas. But the General always fortuitously avoided them. He did not escape disaster by clever, well-planned actions; rather unusual opportunities presented themselves. After the first few times this happened, the novel became boring and I read along just to find out what other fantastic pieces of luck would fall out of the sky to improve his life. A reader of this might think a long time about Karma.
Despite the predictability, there is an interesting short surprise at the very end. I was intrigued by the ending because a very similar event happened to a South Vietnamese friend of mine several years after the US involvement ended. So, the surprise ending here surprised me in that I didn’t see it coming even though I should have.
Rahmini had served in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard. With defeat had come an active attempt by US forces to find him. Looking for a way out, he eventually ended up with ISIS. On orders, he prepared an elaborate terrorist plan to be carried out in the US. Perhaps because he had been in the US in better times when the US and Saddam Hussein were allies, Rahmini was chosen to accompany his plan to the US during implementation. That part of the plan involved Rahmini blowing himself up. Rahmini looked for ways to escape the group that arrived in the US to carry out the plan. He escaped, and this is where the story becomes unbelievable.
Having escaped his team, Rahmini was in the US with no friends, no support group, and no money. He decided to travel by bus to a lesser populated area thinking he had a better chance to survive without identification as he bluffed his way through society. It would also be easier to hide from Taliban pursuers. He bought a disguise that allowed him to pass as an Anglican priest. He traveled to Miles City, Montana by bus. As he alighted, a man approached him and asked if Rahmini was able to officiate an Episcopal wedding. Rahmini replied that he was unable to do so legally but luckily the man who approached him was the mayor who would supply the necessary temporary legal authorization. Luckily, Rahmini found a book in the church that allowed him to perform the service, for which he was paid USD 500. Because it was a check and he couldn’t cash it since he didn’t have a local bank account, he had to wait until the following day. He had no money to stay in a hotel, but the mayor offered to put him up until the following day when the mayor gave Rahmini cash. The mayor then offered Rahmini a chance to rent a room from the church organist, a woman forced to rent rooms after her husband was killed in Iraq. Because Rahmini had done so well with the church service, he was offered a job to replace the priest in the town. Rahmini began to conduct services. When he was refused ordination to become a permanent priest, he was given a job on a county board responsible for providing aid to the aged.
While working in the town, he became romantically involved with the organist and got married. Before marrying, he confessed that he was in the US illegally and she replied: “He was pleased when she told him it didn’t matter, and that after they were married, it would be a simple matter for him as the spouse of an American citizen to regularize his status.” (loc 801-803). I am sure this would be surprising to the CIA, the FBI, ICE, and the Department of Homeland Security. This is extreme fiction.
The newlyweds go on a fantastic honeymoon and return to establish a white picket fence life. Rahmini joins a country club. He takes up golf. Life is good. Then there is the very short surprise ending.
I have rarely read such a sugar-coated Pollyanna type treatment of an issue that held such promise at the beginning of the novel. I found it offensive in the suspension of belief it demanded. This is one of the few Amazon two-star ratings I have assigned.
Notice how I did not comment on the misspelling of “Dilemma” on the novel’s cover.