Veil of Fact
by Pearl Abraham
$25.00 List Price
Pearl Abraham's fourth novel, American Taliban, is the story of an American family riven by the disappearance of a young man, John Jude Parish, into the ranks of the Taliban weeks before 9/11. Though glancingly based on the life of John Walker Lindh, the novel differs in particulars: The eighteen-year-old Parish is a popular, intellectually curious character rather than a troubled teenager, and his journey from Washington, DC, to Afghanistan feels less like a radical quest and more like a pilgrimage that ends at the wrong shrine.
Setting the story in the year 2000, Abraham reminds us that Islam—prior to becoming an unfair synonym for terrorism—was just another exotic ingredient in the American melting pot. Parish thinks of Muhammad in the same breath as "Emerson and Whitman and Dylan," and neither his parents nor his friends find anything disturbing about the thirst for knowledge that drives him first to Brooklyn's Islamic Boerum Hill and then to Pakistan in the gap year before starting college at Brown.
Unfortunately, the novel is stymied by a glut of information. Abraham identifies so strongly with what Parish is studying—the Koran, the exhortations of chat-room fanatics, the newspaper reports—that she never explains why he fixates on Islam rather than another immersive subculture.
So [Parish] Googles the word Islam, the fastest-growing religion of the twenty-first century. One in five people in the world, he reads, considers himself Muslim. Fewer than 15 percent of Muslims are Arabs. The majority of the populations in fifty-one countries are Islamic.