Summary and book reviews of A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi

A Good Country

by Laleh Khadivi

A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2017, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

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About this Book

Book Summary

A timely novel about the radicalization of a Muslim teen in California - about where identity truly lies, and how we find it.

Laguna Beach, California, 2010. Alireza Courdee, a fourteen-year-old straight-A student and chemistry whiz, takes his first hit of pot. In as long as it takes to inhale and exhale, he is transformed from the high-achieving son of Iranian immigrants into a happy-go-lucky stoner. He loses his virginity, takes up surfing, and sneaks away to all-night raves. For the first time, Reza - now Rez - feels like an American teen. Life is smooth; even lying to his strict parents comes easily.

But then he changes again, falling out with the bad boy surfers and in with a group of kids more awake to the world around them, who share his background, and whose ideas fill him with a very different sense of purpose. Within a year, Reza and his girlfriend are making their way to Syria to be part of a Muslim nation rising from the ashes of the civil war.

Timely, nuanced, and emotionally forceful, A Good Country is a gorgeous meditation on modern life, religious radicalization, and a young man caught among vastly different worlds. What we are left with at the dramatic end is not an assessment of good or evil, east versus west, but a lingering question that applies to all modern souls: Do we decide how to live, or is our life decided for us?



1
Laguna Beach, California, Fall 2011



They told him it was the best, there was nothing better. After they started, at twelve and thirteen and fourteen, his friends tried to convince him to try it. Rez, dude, they'd say, it's no big deal. You don't puke. You don't pass out. No one can even tell. It's like daydreaming, like that second just before you fall asleep, but for hours, they said, for the whole of eighth grade, their eyes glazed with the shine of the newly converted, and by tenth grade they gave up and now, start of junior year, it was habit to make fun of him every time there was occasion, every time they circled up to light and puff and smoke, these friends.

If he wanted, it could have happened last night, or even two weeks ago when Johnson's parents were in L.A. at an industry party and Johnson opened his house to anyone with a six-pack or a girl or a bag of weed. At midnight Rez found them in the laundry room, empty beer bottles and half-...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Readers who seek to understand another person's life experience – whether similar or vastly different to their own – will not be disappointed in A Good Country, and they may find their world view is changed and challenged by this powerful story too.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This is a heartbreaking coming-of-age story about the world we live in now.

Booklist

Starred Review. Engrossing ... Khadivi's carefully crafted, masterful novel illustrates how the perfect storm of teenage cruelty, racism, and tragedy can create an extremist.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Brilliantly channeling the minds of angst-filled teenagers with barely formed worldviews who seesaw between brash self-confidence and deflating insecurities, Whiting and Pushcart Prize winner Khadivi (The Walking) has written an important, smart, timely novel that rivals such standouts as Karan Mahajan's The Association of Small Bombs or Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A brilliant novel about a young man's reckoning with a flawed and violent world.

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Beyond the Book

Where Do Terrorists in the US Come From?

As detailed in Lalehi Kadivi's novel, A Good Country, the Boston Marathon Bombing took place on April 15, 2013. Three people were killed and over 260 others were injured including at least 16 who lost limbs. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tzarnaev, two brothers aged 24 and 19, had manufactured home made bombs contained in pressure cookers which exploded near the marathon finish line. Tamerlan died in the subsequent manhunt, but his younger brother Dzhokhar was tried for his part in the atrocity and has been sentenced to death by lethal injection. Both brothers originate from the Chechnian region of Russia and immigrated to the United States as children in 2002. Their family claimed political asylum.

Along with this very real terrorist attack, ...

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