I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Godsend by John Wray
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on October 9, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Coming of Age, Literary
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Inspired by the story of John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban,” Whiting Award–winning author John Wray explores the circumstances that could impel a young American to abandon identity and home to become an Islamist militant.
Like many other eighteen-year-olds, Aden Sawyer is intently focused on a goal: escape from her hometown. Her plan will take her far from her mother’s claustrophobic house, where the family photos have all been turned to face the wall; far from the influence of her domineering father—a professor of Islamic studies—and his new wife.
Aden’s dream, however, is worlds removed from conventional fantasies of teen rebellion: she is determined to travel to Peshawar, Pakistan, to study Islam at a madrasa. To do so, she takes on a new identity, disguising herself as a young man named Suleyman. Aden fully commits to this new life, even burning her passport to protect her secret. But once she is on the ground, she finds herself in greater danger than she could possibly have imagined. Faced with violence, disillusionment, and loss, Aden must make choices that will test not only her faith but also her most fundamental understanding of who she is, and that will set her on a wild, fateful course toward redemption by blood. John Wray’s Godsend is a coming-of-age novel like no other.
Aden Grace sawyer is an eighteen year old girl native Californian. She feels as if people pass judgement on her even her own parents. She doesn’t seem to care that people think bad about her because she believes in Jihad. She is an American but does not feel like one. She doesn’t feel like she belongs. Aden’s friends have abandoned her since she converted to Islam and all she has left is her best friend Decker. Deciding to study the Qur’an at a madrasa in Pakistan, she convinces Decker to accompany her on her journey. Aden hopes after her studies at the madrasa that she can cross over the border to Afghanistan as talibs are fighting the godless to bring back faith to their country. Aden wants to live the word of God, but in order to do so she must disguise herself as a young boy and in doing so she takes up the name Suleyman. Her journey of discovery is a dangerous one rife with sadness and hard truths. But in the eyes of Islam, she is the biggest liar of them all. She is a sinner bearing false witness as she deceives everyone around her. Will Aden finally find a place where she belongs or will this be the worst mistake she has ever made?
Aden is not an easy character to like. In fact, I pretty much hated her for the majority of this story. She is selfish and delusional to think she can just go to a Muslim country and fight for a country and people who consider her an outsider. She has grand dreams of living the word of God with people in unity of purpose something she does not feel in America. But, when she arrives in the Middle east she experiences the same level of disgust as she did in California.
Aden studies hard at the madrasa finding favor with the Mullah, but when she meets the Mullah’s son, Ziar Khan, her entire world changes. She travels with him across the border where she learns how to fight, suffers through losses, witnesses death and slowly begins to understand how perilous her situation really is. Also remember this is a time prior and leading up to 9/11. I don’t think Aden realizes just how much the taliban hates America or any other country they consider godless. Aden is in way over her head and to be quite honest I was not looking for a happy ending for her.
Godsend is inspired by John Walker Lindh, a US citizen who converted to Islam who later became a traitor to his country. You can see the parallel between his story and Aden’s and it is quite frightening. This story is not an easy read by any means. John Wray does not romanticize any part of this story. He shows the harsh realities of life in the Middle East during a time of political unrest. Even though Godless is a fictitious story, many parts of it ring true. it flows effortlessly and is beautifully written regardless of topic. As much as I disliked Aden, I loved the story as a whole in its simplicity. Wray shows us that you do not have to use flowery words to make a story stand out. I can’t help by liken Wray’s style of writing to Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns.
Godless is a gripping story that is so powerful and so compelling. Even though I had a hard time reading it, I also had a hard time putting it down. I was truly captivated by Wray’s style of writing and the way his voice grips you and doesn’t let go. This is not a book you just read, it is a book that you feel deep down in your soul. Godless is an award worthy read and I wish nothing but the best for this book. I can not recommend this book highly enough! It deserves all of the praise it is sure to receive.