Cover image for Emergency sex and other desperate measures : a true story from Hell on Earth
Emergency sex and other desperate measures : a true story from Hell on Earth
Cain, Kenneth.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion, [2004]

Physical Description:
308 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JX1952 .C285 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A new kind of war requires a new kind of war story. This scorching, devastatingly honest memoir is a first-of-its-kind confession of love, friendship, and betrayal of ideals from civilians who volunteered to be on the front lines.

In the early 1990s, three young people attracted to UN peacekeeping for very different reasons cross paths in Cambodia. Heidi, a new York social worker on the run from a marriage gone bust, is looking for an adventure. Andrew is a young doctor seeking to save lives. Ken is fresh from Harvard Law and full of idealism.

The UN organizes Cambodias first democratic elections, and Phnom Penh is the scene of wild parties, as the international community celebrates the end of the Cold War. There the three become friends for life.

Propelled by success in Cambodia, the US and UN sponsor peacekeeping missions to Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia. Ken and Heidi find themselves together in Somalia. They dance on their rooftop to Jimi Hendrix while helicopters buzz overhead so close they feel the heat of the exhaust. "Youre listening to 99.9 FM MogadishuRockin the Dish," American Armed Forces Radio announces, "Keep your head down and the volume up."

But after the infamous Black Hawk Down incident when eighteen US Army Rangers were killed in a firefight with Somali militias, a chain reaction of violence breaks loose. As the trios missions unravel, their bond tightens. Andrew is sent to Haiti, to Bosnia, and then Rwanda where he finds Ken, investigating the mass grave of genocide. Heidis journey is unforgettablea rare woman in a mans world of conflict and war.

The three friends voices mingle to paint an indelible picturesuffused with tenderness and unexpected humorof life, love, and death in the worlds most dangerous places. By day they struggle to bring order out of chaos; by night they use revelry, sex, each otherdesperate measures from faith to flesh and everything in betweento find a human connection in a terrifying world. Graphic, lyrical, and astonishingly urgent, Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures is a celebration of the strength of the human spiritand of the gritty power of friendship to keep you alive.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

At the beginning of the 1990s, the authors, who did not know each other, came together in, of all places, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There was the Harvard Law graduate who didn't want to be just another corporate lawyer; the New York social worker who saw her chance to make a difference slipping away; the missionary doctor looking for the best way to use his skills to help the people who need him most. They all came to Cambodia as part of the UN peacekeeping mission, and there they became friends, colleagues, and much more. The book is about people who went somewhere for all the right reasons and wound up facing challenges they never knew existed. The story is vividly told, almost tactile in its details. Many of the book's images--of poverty, desolation, abuse--are difficult to forget. For the authors, it was an experience that enriched them beyond measure. This is a unique and rewarding book, a mix of memoir, history, travel, and personal analysis. --David Pitt Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ah, to be young, Western and ambitious in a war zone. It's the early 1990s, and Cain and Postlewait are two American U.N. employees sent to Cambodia to help the country rebuild itself after two decades of war and genocide. Thomson is a New Zealand-trained doctor who has already been there for a short while, patching up limbs shattered by land mines and looking for a corner of the world to save. The three meet during the U.N.'s efforts to install democracy in one of the unlikeliest places. Idealism, financial need, thirst for adventure and the desire to be a part of history bring them there, and the high they get from doing their work keeps them flitting around the globe, looking for hot spots to help cool down. The trio's early success in Southeast Asia is only added encouragement, as they follow their own intertwining paths through the wars and killings of the 1990s. From Cambodia, Somalia and Haiti, to Bosnia, Rwanda and Liberia, Cain, Postlewait and Thomson find death, sex, bureaucratic betrayal, sex, liberation from their pasts and seamy, regret-tainted sex amid the body parts and rotting flesh. Infuriating, heart-wrenching and well written, their tale is compelling both as a bottom-up look at U.N. peacekeeping efforts during the 1990s and a testimonial from the people who put their lives and sanity on the line for the sake of a simple idea peace. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (June 9) Forecast: This memoir could appeal to under-35 Peace Corps volunteers and other young idealists. The authors will promote the book in New York and Washington, D.C. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved