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Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell
Dreamers of the Day is narrated from the afterlife by Agnes Shanklin, a forty-year-old schoolteacher from Ohio who has lived an unremarkable life. After the death of her entire family in the flu epidemic in 1918, she inherits a little money and decides to visit Egypt and the Holy Land where her sister had once been a missionary. In 1921, she arrives at the Semiramis Hotel in Cairo, where the Peace Conference is creating the Middle East countries Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. She meets Lawrence of Arabia, who knew her sister, which leads to her also meeting Winston Churchill and Gertrude Bell. They're willing to discuss their thoughts with this unassuming American woman. Agnes is also courted by the charismatic German spy Karl Weilbacher. Her little story becomes the adventure of a lifetime. Mary Doria Russell's novel has received mostly positive reviews with BookReporter.com saying, "Dreamers of the Day is at once a fascinating and romantic travelogue and a spiritually challenging journey of self-discovery, especially in Jerusalem where Agnes experiences the clash of cultures in the ancient city."