The ever-surprising John Updikes twenty-second novel is a brilliant contemporary fiction that will surely be counted as one of his most powerful. It tells of eighteen-year-old Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy and his devotion to Allah and the words of the Holy Quran, as expounded to him by a local mosques imam.
The son of an Irish-American mother and an Egyptian father who disappeared when he was three, Ahmad turned to Islam at the age of eleven. He feels his faith threatened by the materialistic, hedonistic society he sees around him in the slumping factory town of New Prospect, in northern New Jersey. Neither the world-weary, depressed guidance counselor at Central High School, Jack Levy, nor Ahmads mischievously seductive black classmate, Joryleen Grant, succeeds in diverting the boy from what his religion calls the Straight Path. When he finds employment in a furniture store owned by a family of recently immigrated Lebanese, the threads of a plot gather around him, with reverberations that rouse the Department of Homeland Security.
But to quote the Quran: Of those who plot, God is the best.
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. Their bare bellies, adorned with shining navel studs
and low-down purple tattoos, ask, What else is there to see? Boys strut
and saunter along and look dead-eyed, indicating with their edgy killer gestures
and careless scornful laughs that this world is all there isa noisy varnished
hall lined with metal lockers and having at its end a blank wall desecrated by
graffiti and roller-painted over so often it feels to be coming closer by
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. They are paid to say these things, by the city of New Prospect and the state of New Jersey. They lack true faith; they are not on the Straight Path; they are ...
John Updike’s controversial twenty-second novel has garnered reviews both positive and negative. All the prepublication reviews were generally positive, with starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist ("deserves the label of masterpiece"). Those that come down against the book generally don't do so because of the subject matter but because they feel that the voice of Ahmad lacks credibility.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (559 words).
John Updike is the author of more
than fifty books, including collections
of short stories, poems, criticism and novels. His
novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the
National Book Award, the American Book
Award, the National Book Critics Circle
Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the
The Ad are believed to be an ancient Arabian people who became rich through the production of frankincense and as a trading point for spices from India. The Qur'an says that the prophet Hud was sent by Allah to the city of Ubar/Iram (famed for its tall ...
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