BookBrowse Reviews Terrorist by John Updike

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Terrorist

by John Updike

Terrorist by John Updike X
Terrorist by John Updike
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2006, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2007, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A recipe for terrorism - Mullahs, botched CIA gambits, race and class shame, and half-baked plots,

From the book jacket:  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 Ahmad’s 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 Qur’an: Of those who plot, God is the best.

Comment: 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.  As the Boston Herald puts it: "Updike’s jerry-built, between-two-worlds son of an absent Egyptian father and artsy Irish-American mother, exposes himself as a wooden prop in a scarcely thrilling moral drama. He’s a ticking bomber-in-waiting from the get-go, though not a very believable one: If there are high schoolers today who walk around musing, as Ahmad does, about 'maieutic irony*,' I haven’t met them - and I don’t believe Updike has either." 

Ahmad and his teacher compare New York to the wealthy and prideful people of Ad, who were struck down in their prime (see sidebar); and Updike does not pull any punches as he views complacent, overindulgent, morally befuddled urban America through their eyes.

In addition to Ahmad's viewpoint, we also see through the eyes of an elderly Lebanese immigrant; that immigrant's American-born son; and a Yemeni imam, who all, in turn, interpret what they consider America to be based on their own experience - an experience set against the backdrop of the decaying remnants of industrial New Jersey, once a prospering area energized by immigrants.  

*According to the OED, maieutic = pertaining to (intellectual) midwifery; i.e. to the Socratic process of helping a person to bring into full consciousness conceptions previously latent in his mind (from the Greek maieuesthai, to act as midwife).

This review was originally published in July 2006, and has been updated for the May 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Story of Arthur Truluv
    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg
    Elizabeth Berg's heartwarming novel scored an an impressive 4.4 average rating from the 48 members ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Ballad
    The Last Ballad
    by Wiley Cash
    Ella May WigginsA hundred years ago or so, farming land west of Charlotte, North Carolina was given over to giant ...
  • Book Jacket: Future Home of the Living God
    Future Home of the Living God
    by Louise Erdrich
    Louise Erdrich began Future Home of the Living God in 2002, set it aside, and picked it up again in ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

At once a love story, a history lesson and a beautifully written tale of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E Dog H I D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.