Sunday, January 20, 2008

TERRORIST by John Updike (2006)

With more than 50 published books of poetry, fiction, short fiction and essays to his name, John Updike is certainly one of America's best known contemporary men of letters.

TERRORIST, his most recent novel, is the story of high school senior Ahmad Molloy, who is disenchanted with the hedonistic and materialistic pursuit of his peers in the New Jersey town he calls home. Abandoned by his Egyptian father when he was a toddler, Ahmad was raised by his lapsed Catholic Irish mother whose Bohemian ways are an embarrassment to him. He turns to the words of the Holy Qur'an for comfort and guidance and devotes himself fervently to Allah and to the ministrations of a proselytizing imam at his local mosque.

Ahmad's narrative is balanced by the story of his middle-aged guidance counsellor Jack Levy whose sister-in-law Hermione works for the Department of Homeland Security. In surprising and satisfying ways Updike weaves the parallel storylines together to an unexpected conclusion in Ahmad's post-9/11 world.

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