Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I just finished another book by John Updike.
Did I like it?
Should you read it, too?
Yes, I think you should.
So far I've read three books by this author, and I have liked them all.
In The Beauty of the Lilies [<-- fabulous] Gertrude and Claudius [<-- a behind the scenes look at Shakespeare's Hamlet characters, very very good]… and now this one. Depth-wise, perhaps the weakest of the three, but still -- I find Updike to be an author that deserves my continued attention. And I have many others of his on deck here amid the Bookpuddle shelves.

Terrorist tells the story of young Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy. The second surname is that of his red-haired all-American-Irish mother. Ahmad is the product of a brief liaison she had with a man of Middle Eastern descent. Growing up in post 9/11 [I hate that truncated phrase but use it here for brevity, as we all tend to do] New Jersey, Ahmad embraces the faith of his absentee father, and becomes as devoted as any high-schooler can be, to the stringent dictates of the Muslim faith. He exceeds the devotion of his imam-tutor, learning fluent Arabic, and constantly reciting the Holy Qur'an in his heart and mind.
When he graduates, Ahmad takes up the profession of truck-driver for a furniture company and becomes embroiled in, umm… a bit more than the mere delivery of sofas and ottomans.
Updike weaves together a thread of diverse, believable characters, some of them intent on hindering Ahmad's faith, and others -- very much urging him onward toward more than anyone should ever ask of another human being. Namely, the giving of their own life, for a religious ideal. Behind those willing to be martyrs, there is a long line of others that shrink not only into anonymity, but, continued life.
This last point is, I think, the real unique thing that Updike achieves with this novel. He shows us that those that we may call "terrorists" are not necessarily inherently evil people.
They are just deluded, as is anyone of any religious faith that succeeds in becoming convinced that others would be better off dead than alive, if different while living.
Well worth reading. The final pages keep you riveted until you finally exhale and say, "Holy shit. I think I understand a lot more about how this happens, now."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, another "must read" for me too then. I'll have to get me my copy!