Thursday, 13 July 2017

Review: A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi

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

Laguna Beach, California, 2009. 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 father 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 two friends are making their way to Syria to join in the fight.

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 souls: Does a person decide how to live, or is their life decided for them?

Shona's review 5 of 5 stars

This is completely different to the types of books I would usually read, but I've found myself in this weird book funk where it can take me a couple of weeks to read a book. However this one I was able to read in just a few days.

My biggest issue with this book quickly became one of the things I loved most. The lack of speech marks. There is none. At first it was a little off putting, it was difficult to differentiate between Rez's inner monologue and his dialogue with friends. But the entire book unfolds as though we the reader are inside his head, the book is his thoughts rather than his actions and interactions.

There is no question that the content of the book is controversial but Khadivi has done a fantastic job of writing it. She has written a book that gives an incredible insight in to the life and prejudices facing anyone from an Eastern European or Muslim background. And as the story follows Rez and his life experiences it is a little easier to see how impressionable young teens can be led down the wrong path.. This isn't just a book you can pick up, read and walk away from. This book is going to stay with you.

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