Kim Barnes


An Oklahoma woman follows her husband to the oilfields of Saudi Arabia in the 1960s, where, living in a compound, the couple makes a startling discovery about the depths of the Saudis’ institutionalized racism and the accusation of murder threatens to tear them apart.

“Lyrical . . . It takes guts to title a novel after a line from the Bible—‘the Most high rules in the kingdom of men’—and then to begin Chapter 1 with possibly the most famous biblical reference available: ‘In the beginning.’ Following through, Kim Barnes casts her protagonist and narrator, a young American girl called Gin, in the image of a certain female character from a certain creation myth. . . . In the Kingdom of Men [is] something more than a novel about an Okie who causes trouble in a foreign land. It’s that, and a feminist bildungsroman.”—Juliet Lapidos, The New York Times Book Review

In the Kingdom of Men resembles Kipling’s Plain Tales from the Hills as much as any other book. The men run the administration of a society made up of darker-skinned and, by definition, inferior people, but the women run the white-skinned men, casting an invisible but exceedingly strong net over the group. . . . The menus here are . . . so enticing that you’ll want to stop reading for a while and put together a sumptuous dinner. . . . A culturally complex story about American venality and greed.” —Carolyn See, The Washington Post

“Seldom has a book drawn me into its clutches as quickly as this one did. By the second sentence I was hooked on the first person account of Virginia Mae Mitchell. . . . With a compelling narrative that never flags, we are quickly transported from the dusty, red clay plains to the seemingly infinite desert sandscapes of Saudi Arabia. . . . From the waves of numbing heat and the vastness of the shimmering desert to blinding sandstorms, Biblical locust invasions, and the insidious, stifling boredom found within the confines of Mad Men-era Americana in the midst of an alien culture, Barnes makes the city of Abqaiq come alive.”—Jay Trachtenberg, The Austin Chronicle

“With courage and zest, Kim Barnes’s novel In the Kingdom of Men takes an intimate look at . . . the rarified and harshly beautiful world of eastern Saudi Arabia. . . . Her Americans are loud and sharp and leaping from the page, casually refilling their cocktail glasses and whooping it up at the Beachcomber’s Ball, some joyfully, some desperately, but all clinging to their own habits while betraying a general disconnection from—and disregard for—the Arabia all around them. And that disregard leads to the dark, tragic heart of the novel. . . . Within these lyrical pages is a story well worth investigating.”—Zoë Ferraris, San Francisco Chronicle

“A swashbuckling, thrilling ride of a book, In The Kingdom of Men transports readers to the sands of Arabia and the recesses of the human heart. Ginny McPhee is a heroine unlike any other, negotiating love, politics, the intricacies of marriage, and the journey to selfhood. A vivid and compelling tale.”—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise

“If you want to understand, right in your gut, the history of the American relationship with Saudi Arabia; if you want a magical, layered story of west-inside-east, culture layered over culture, and the slow—still ongoing—revolution of gender and race oppression, In the Kingdom of Men is your book. It’s Mad Men meets The Sheltering Sky, a Revolutionary Road for the oil-addicted. It’s also an utter pleasure to read.”—Anthony Doerr, author of Memory Wall and About Grace

Rights: Knopf/Vintage, North American; Hutchinson, UK; Dreamscape, Audio


The story of a young, idealistic couple who set out to create their own utopia in the farmlands of Idaho, only to find that the challenges of rural life threaten to tear them apart.

Rights: Knopf/Vintage, North American

KISS TOMORROW HELLO: Notes From the Midlife Underground by Twenty-five Women Over Forty (2006), co-edited with Claire Davis

Collection of shockingly honest essays by women over forty on reaching middle age.  Contributors include Julia Glass, Joyce Maynard, Lolly Winston, Antonya Nelson, Diana Abu-Jaber, Judy Blunt, Lauren Slater

Rights: Doubleday, North American; Oprah, Good Housekeeping, More, First serial; Ladies Home Journal, Second serial


Rights: Marian Wood Books, Penguin/Putnam, World English

HUNGRY FOR THE WORLD: A MEMOIR (Villard/Anchor, 2001)


  • Short listed for the Pulitzer Prize.