Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Good Son by Michael Gruber

This is one of the books that I heard about on NPR and decided to read, and was wildly glad that I did.

The Good Son was written by Michael Gruber, a man that had a lot of careers before becoming a novelist, including chef and journalist. I'm convinced that his background as a journalist helped him in composing this novel about the intersection of the Muslim world of Pakistan/Afghanistand and the West.

The protagonist, Sonya Davis, is a white, American woman that practices both Islam and Catholicism and married a wealthy Pakistani. After working briefly in a circus, she and her husband, Farid Laghari, moved to Lahore where they had three children - one of whom (Theo) we get to know intimately in this novel. Theo is raised in Lahore. At ten, a family tragedy inspires Theo and his best friend (and adopted brother) Wazir to run off to join the jihad against the Russians (it is, after all, the late eighties when the Russians were in Afghanistan). At 13, Theo becomes a legendary jihadist after he single handedly kills 60 soldiers and takes over their fort. As the novel begins, Sonya is leading a group of activists into the Afghani country and mountains in order to hold a convention that promotes peace. They are taken hostage. Theo promptly sets out to rescue his mother.

I really enjoyed this novel because it was a spy/mystery novel that contained a lot of information about the Muslim world and discussion about comparative religion/culture.  That was what interested me the most about this book. Gruber's writing style made this discussion accessible and interesting while not letting it drag a whole lot (though in some places it did). Each plotline (of which there are three) are told in alternating chapters from different points of view, but it's hardly confusing or difficult to follow and actually makes the book more enjoyable because, in my opinion, it becomes easier to follow.

Mr. Gruber obviously has a talent and it's one that you must enjoy with this novel.

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