Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Even into the 1970’s, life in Honolulu for Inez and her relatives retains many of the perks and institutions of its colonial past. Daiquiri poolside lunches and visiting ballet companies, investments in container corporations and Sea Meadow housing developments all play a part in the family’s illusion of a protected life. However, the occasional presence of Jack Lovett, a mysterious agent with covert, unspecified business all across the Pacific region, shows a different face of the island state. This is underscored by the scene at Schofield Barracks in which Jack and Inez watch television coverage of the simultaneous evacuation of several Southeast Asian capitals. Airfields are jammed with trans-Pacific commerce and rescue missions, and a faint sense of decay as well as luxury reminds the reader that Honolulu is a tropical city not entirely unlike the others that loomed so large in the decade’s disastrous events. When Inez’s father, Paul Christian, shoots her sister Janet Zeigler and a congressman on the rim of the Zeigler’s indoor koi-fish pool, the intrusion of reality is complete.
The book is sparing of descriptive detail. Hawaiian scenic vistas play little part, either in the narrative or in Inez’s memories. Strangely enough, the few scenes she remembers as places and times where she might have been happy took place elsewhere–a hotel room in Chicago with snow piling up outside; a lunch en famille on a rainy day in Paris. These spotty recollections echo her belief that the price public life exacts is a loss of memory, but the memories also reflect settings where she is out of cameramen’s and reporters’ range. Because of her family’s and her husband’s prominence, she seldom attained this happy situation in Honolulu.
*Kuala Lumpur. Capital city of Malaysia, situated on the eastern coast of the Malaysian peninsula, which served as a way station and refuge for people fleeing persecution in Cambodia, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian countries. In the novel, Inez visits a refugee camp in Kuala Lumpur when her husband’s travels take them to Malaysia. As a “special interest” it is considered too controversial by his political advisors, but when she leaves Honolulu with Jack Lovett on the eve of her sister’s funeral, she ends up working in the camp on a semi-permanent basis. Inez thus finally puts her husband’s liberal principles into practice, while he is still flailing around, changing positions every time a poll result shifts.
*Saigon. Capital of South Vietnam before the reunification of Vietnam. Of all the places mentioned in Democracy, Saigon is the only one Inez never visits, but it serves as a storm center and catalyst for many events in her life. Jack Lovett goes to Saigon sporadically on unspecified missions. When Inez’s daughter Jessie refuses to attend her Aunt Janet’s funeral, she flies to Saigon instead, seeking a waitress job or perhaps a reliable drug connection. This is during the final days of the American pullout from the city. Inez, frightened for Jessie, asks Jack to go to Saigon, as he is the only person who knows his way around the embattled capital. Miraculously, he goes and forcibly puts the young woman on a U.S.-bound flight just as American troops are abandoning their mission in Vietnam.