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Terrorist Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Jun 6 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (June 6 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307264653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307264657
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.3 x 22 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,337,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ripped from the headlines doesn't begin to describe Updike's latest, a by-the-numbers novelization of the last five years' news reports on the dangers of home-grown terror that packs a gut punch. Ahmad Mulloy Ashmawy is 18 and attends Central High School in the New York metro area working class city of New Prospect, N.J. He is the son of an Egyptian exchange student who married a working-class Irish-American girl and then disappeared when Ahmad was three. Ahmad, disgusted by his mother's inability to get it together, is in the thrall of Shaikh Rashid, who runs a storefront mosque and preaches divine retribution for "devils," including the "Zionist dominated federal government." The list of devils is long: it includes Joryleen Grant, the wayward African-American girl with a heart of gold; Tylenol Jones, a black tough guy with whom Ahmad obliquely competes for Joryleen's attentions (which Ahmad eventually pays for); Jack Levy, a Central High guidance counselor who at 63 has seen enough failure, including his own, to last him a lifetime (and whose Jewishness plays a part in a manner unthinkable before 9/11); Jack's wife, Beth, as ineffectual and overweight (Updike is merciless on this) as she is oblivious; and Teresa Mulloy, a nurse's aide and Sunday painter as desperate for Jack's attention, when he takes on Ahmad's case, as Jack is for hers. Updike has distilled all their flaws to a caustic, crystalline essence; he dwells on their poor bodies and the debased world in which they move unrelentingly, and with a dispassionate cruelty that verges on shocking. Ahmad's revulsion for American culture doesn't seem to displease Updike one iota. But Updike has also thoroughly digested all of the discursive pap surrounding the post-9/11 threat of terrorism, and that is the real story here. Mullahs, botched CIA gambits, race and class shame (that leads to poor self-worth that leads to vulnerability that leads to extremism), half-baked plots that just might work-all are here, and dispatched with an elegance that highlights their banality and how very real they may be. So smooth is Updike in putting his grotesques through their paces-effortlessly putting them in each others' orbits-that his contempt for them enhances rather than spoils the novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Updike is never static; over the course of his long career, he has not only mastered various literary forms but also tackled a wide variety of subjects as material for his fiction. His new novel, swift, sinewy, and stylish, represents another big leap. In the hands of a lesser writer, such a risky topic and premise easily could have come across as presumptuous. Ahmad, an 18-year-old high school student, is the son of an Irish American mother and an Egyptian father. He has taken up the Islamic faith of his father so completely that he is obsessed with distancing himself from the unclean infidel, which is how he views the New Jersey community in which he lives. The high-school guidance counselor, who attempts to steer young Ahmad in a direction he feels is more suitable and productive, is a compelling and oddly attractive supporting character, who, as it turns out, plays a vital role in a deadly plot into which Ahmad tumbles like the naive, easily manipulated adolescent he is. This marvelous novel can be accurately labeled as a 9/11 novel, but it deserves also the label of masterpiece for its carefully nuanced building up of the psychology of those who traffic in terrorism. Timely and topical, poised and passionate, it is a high mark in Updike's career. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Devils, Ahmad thinks. These devils seek to take away my God. All day long, at Central High School, girls sway and sneer and expose their soft bodies and alluring hair......The teachers, weak Christians and nonobservant Jews, make a show of teaching virtue and righteous self-restraint, but their shifty eyes and hollow voices betray their lack of belief."

Those are the thoughts of 18-year-old Ahmad, a student at a New Jersey high school. He appears to be a bomb waiting to go off - the son of an Irish-American mother and an Egyptian father who took off when the boy was three, he is devoted to Islam and has found a surrogate father in the imam who gives him instruction. It's not only his classmates that Ahmad disdains but also his mother and the string of boyfriends she dangles.

Updike points a chilling portrait of a would be terrorist and also causes readers to wonder why no one had evidently seen the signs of this boy's mind set. In the author's description one of the reasons he's bent on destruction is that he can't think of anything else to do after high school. Little reason for killing people.

No notice is taken when Ahmad suddenly evidences an interest in learning how to operate large trucks nor has anyone noted that the boy has never had a friend - male or female. One wonders if he ever longed to be a part of the high school crowd or go out with one of the girls he denigrates It is as if he has developed in a vacuum with only his hatred of American materialism to keep him company.

Terrorist is an eerie dissection of an obsessive mind, a troubling story yet a necessary one as it relates to our world today. Plus, in the hands of the master John Updike it is rich in elegant prose and descriptive passages so substantive that it seems characters may leap from the page.

- Gail Cooke
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Format: Kindle Edition
John Updike’s “Terrorist” is a masterful depiction of the life of a young man caught in a circle full of intrigues he never really gets to understand. Rather unfortunately, he commits himself to the futile path. In many ways he mirrors the character of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, or Gavin in Triple Agent, Double Cross. A must read for those who are trying to get a better grasp of today's “Man of Terror”, who abound in the tons of extremist groups out there in our world.
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Format: Hardcover
Terrorist masterfully depicts the life of a young man cuaght in a circle whose intrigues he never really understood but unfortunately committed himself to the futile path. In many wys he mirrors the character of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, or Gavin in Triple Agent Double Cross. A must read to have a better grasp of todays man of terror.
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Format: Hardcover
After every attack on the United States, waves of paranoia have swept the nation. If we go back through these attacks since the American Revolution, we find a consistent history though that those who were born in the country that did the attacking but live in the U.S. are loyal to America. In part the paranoia builds because politicians and the media make hay from such fears. Eventually, everyone calms down and sees their fear is exaggerated.

As I read John Updike's book, I kept thinking that this was a book designed to explain what doesn't appear to be the case . . . a native-born American becoming a terrorist who follows Islamic beliefs to pursue Jihad. From the beginning, the premise didn’t ring true. And the story itself rang even less true.

If you can get past that point, you still have to deal with Mr. Updike trying to describe something that's very different from his own cultural experiences. Mr. Updike seems to have worked hard at it, but again his depictions of the characters don't ring true to me.

Here's the story in a nutshell. A young man, Ahmad Ashmaway Mulloy, decides to identify with his absent father's Egyptian heritage while being raised by his round-heeled Irish-American mother with whom he doesn't feel very connected or comfortable. The identity becomes centered on practicing Islam. At the local mosque, he's encouraged to stop his education after high school to become a truck driver. Depressed guidance counselor, Jack Levy, tries to dissuade Ahmad, but only succeeds in becoming his mother's lover. Ahmad is introduced to the Chehab family, whose furniture store needs a new driver. Pretty soon, he's being sounded out for his feelings about Jihad.
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Format: Hardcover
Updike's writing is wonderful and the story here is relevant and timely, if perhaps a bit fanciful. However, the misogyny is truly distracting. I thought *perhaps* he was trying to make an underlying comment with it, but indeed his other writings reflect the misogyny as his own.

Too bad. It ruins what could otherwise be something worth talking about.
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