Today Mandie has a review of Jihadi: A Love Story by Yusuf Toropov. This was a book which quite surprised me and wasn’t at all what I was expecting. You can read my take on it right here. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
A former intelligence agent stands accused of terrorism, held without charge in a secret overseas prison. His memoir is in the hands of a brilliant but erratic psychologist whose annotations paint a much darker picture. As the story unravels, we are forced to assess the truth for ourselves, and decide not only what really happened on one fateful overseas assignment but who is the real terrorist.
Peopled by a diverse and unforgettable cast of characters, whose reliability as narrators is always questioned, and with a multi-layered plot heaving with unexpected and often shocking developments, Jihadi: A Love Story is an intelligent thriller that asks big questions.
Complex, intriguing and intricately woven, this is an astonishing debut that explores the nature of good and evil alongside notions of nationalism, terrorism and fidelity, and, above all, the fragility of the human mind.
Jihadi: A Love Story is a book that is very hard to review as it challenges you from the start and it makes you think. There are certainly no winners or even good guys in the events in this book but that in itself lends a bit more to the believability of the story being told.
Thelonius Liddell has written a sort of memoir and it is this that is the basis of the book as the story he is telling is slowly pulled apart by someone as the reader we do not know (although as the book progresses you will find out who this person is). Through his writings we also get to see events through the eyes of Fatima Adara, someone who through her job comes into contact with him, helping him during his time as a prisoner. Her family has suffered due to certain events,yet she still feels it is her duty to serve her country even if it means dealing with the person who may be responsible for her pain. Her one other dealing with American’s comes in the form of Mike Mazzoli who you would be forgiven for thinking was only a bit player in this book, but as you read on you can see how one act at the beginning soon escalates and has much to do with events that take place throughout.
Thelonius is certainly a complex person who is clearly struggling with his role in events and also at times appears to be fighting a losing battle with his grip on reality. During his darkest times he does start to turn to prayer and some of the Muslim teachings that he was probably sent to undermine. Whilst it is hard to condone some of his actions, he does start to question if what he is being ordered to do is actually right, a belief that ultimately puts him at odds with his employers and may actually help seal his fate.
Fatima is someone who is making the best of her lot. Her gender and her faith prevent her from doing so much, yet she still finds a way to look after what is left of her family as best she can, not that her actions are always understood or appreciated. Her resilience when faced with unbelievable acts is to be admired and you can sense her struggles with some of the things she is forced to do.
If there is one person in this book that depicts the true evil behind any war it is Mike Mazzoli. His total lack of respect and disregard for authority and decent human behaviour has your skin crawling right from the start and I have to admit I was not shocked by the way his story ended
This is not going to be a book for everyone, but I would still recommend that you read it as it shows both sides to a very emotive topic and I think it will probably be a book that stays with me for quite some time for so many different reasons.
About the Author
Yusuf Toropov is an American Muslim writer. He’s the author or co-author of a number of nonfiction books, including Shakespeare for Beginners. His full-length play An Undivided Heart was selected for a workshop production at the National Playwrights Conference, and his one-act play The Job Search was produced off-Broadway. Jihadi: A Love Story, which reached the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is his first novel. He is currently living in Ireland.
Books by Yusuf Toropov