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Sympathy for the reluctant fundamentalist

Cover of A Good Country
A review of A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi

Written by Iranian-American author and filmmaker Laleh Khadivi, A Good Country is an unnerving, yet somehow beautiful, slow burn of a novel. Khadivi’s prose has a loose and languid long-windedness -- where description and dialog bleed together -- that mimics with stunning naturalism the druggy bleariness of its main character’s day-to-day existence.

Its plot is scary stuff. Not only does our main character, a sensitive SoCal teen named Rez, the son of Iranian immigrants, eventually join ISIS, he does so without ever losing the reader’s sympathies. It is heartbreaking witnessing Rez go from seeking peer approval in smoke, surf, and sun, to becoming so alienated from his birthplace that violent religious hegemony beckons. It is heartbreaking even more so because Khadivi captures the prejudicial and fear-based behaviors that drive Rez, and all those around him, to identify how they identify and do what they do.

Imperfect (overlong and sometimes overwrought), but challenging, thought-provoking, and distinctively written, A Good Country is one of 2017’s timeliest and most memorable novels.

Nov 7, 2017