Author: John Updike
Original language: English
Terrorist by John Updike is a timely piece of contemporary literature that is well-written and dense with observation and description. Updike takes readers into the mind of a terrorist and helps us understand the possible motivation and mindset of those involved in terrorism. Terrorist is an important piece of social literature, but it is not light or easy reading. It is slow at points and requires concentration to read.
Terrorist by John Updike is about Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy, an 18-year-old boy in Northern New Jersey who is devoted to Islam. Ahmad was raised by an Irish-American mother after his Egyptian father disappeared when he was three. Ahmad converts to Islam at age 11 and is instructed in the Qur’an by a local imam.
Ahmad is a sympathetic character. Updike lets readers into his head, forcing us to view American materialism and morality from his viewpoint. Updike also draws us into other characters’ lives-Ahmad’s mother, a high school guidance counselor, an African-American teenage girl, a worker in the Department of Homeland Security. It was striking to me how lost many of the characters were. In many ways, Ahmad was one of the most thoughtful and moral characters in the story. That is a disturbing realization when you consider that he is being groomed to be a terrorist.
Indeed, just as the protagonist is a thoughtful young terrorist, the novel Terrorist is a thought-provoking book. It is clear that Updike has thought a lot about American society, the inner city and modern morality. His descriptions and complex characters compel readers to do the same.
Terrorist is not easy reading. I did not get caught up in the plot, and that was disappointing. It was easy for me to put the novel down after 25 pages, both because I needed time to process and because it did not always keep my attention. Updike is a great writer, and Terrorist shows that; however, everyone may not like the book.