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Godsend

A Novel
By: John Wray
Narrated by: Suehyla El-Attar
Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4 out of 5 stars (23 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 18-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, and 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 madrassa. 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, brutal course toward redemption by blood.   

John Wray’s Godsend is an enduring coming-of-age audiobook.

©2018 John Wray (P)2018 Macmillan Audio

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

compelling novel, though could have done more

This book received many well-deserved accolades for the topic it tackled and the way it tackled them. I recommend the book, and feel the strongest aspect of the book is the headstrong character at the center of the story. However, I feel like the plot left some rather large holes that I would have wanted that character to experience and thereby help us understand how she would have experienced them. I won't go into any details about those holes, and of course a writer can only write what they are capable of writing, but it doesn't feel like these holes were left because they were the right holes to leave, if you understand what I mean. it was more because they either could not go there or ran out of time or knowledge sufficient to attack what I see as admittedly challenging aspects in the narrative. The audiobook version of this is very well done, the narrator provides both male and female voices from a variety of regional cultures that are believable and sympathetic.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • STAMFORD, CT, United States
  • 02-08-19

So Brave, So Flawed

Aden Grace Sawyer, the protagonist of “Godsend,” is intense. She leaves her comfortable California community, where her father is a secular professor of Islamic studies, to join the fight for Islamic fundamentalism.

Aden is relentless in achieving her goals. She has taught herself much of the Quran. She persuades her shallow Muslim boyfriend to fly with her to Pakistan, initially to study in a madrassa. She disguises herself as a boy too young to shave so she can participate in the all-male school—and fight those she perceives as religious and political enemies.

The novel becomes suspenseful as Aden—now Suleyman—struggles to protect both her faith in jihad and her boyish identity. Many fellow fighters, from a variety of Muslim countries, find this American “boy” a novelty and perhaps a threat. But she never loses her focus, even as she witnesses the increasingly senseless violence of her fellow fighters.

Basically, Aden offers treasonous assistance to those who would kill her fellow Americans. But Wray makes her deeply sympathetic, almost understandable, despite her radical rejection of family and country. Aden is willing to sacrifice everything for her faith and her cause. And Wray's sensitive writing makes that dedication seem almost reasonable.

Wray uses a lot of indirection to show Aden’s changing relationship with the fighters around her. While Aden understands her dangerous situation, she never seems to give up on the purity of her own vision and faith.

The narration by Suehyla El-Attar was outstanding. She brought a subtle distinction to each character’s voice, and she narrated some very disturbing scenes with calm and control.

Overall, a fascinating look at a young true believer.