A Good Country

Laleh Khadivi's A Good Country is the third in a loosely formed trilogy (after The Age of Orphans and The Walking) featuring three generations of Iranian men. In this final volume, 14-year-old Reza Courdee walks a careful line between his parents' Iranian heritage and his desire to fit in at the Laguna Beach, Calif., high school he attends.

As A Good Country unfolds over the span of his adolescence, Reza transforms and transforms again. He is a pot-smoking, partying, surfing American teen; then the dutiful student who befriends others from similar backgrounds; and then a college-bound young man on the cusp of adulthood. As he changes, so does the world around him: frequent terrorist attacks raise fear and suspicion of anyone from Muslim descent. Reza, his family and friends are subjected to increasing instances of hatred and racism. Though not raised a practicing Muslim, Reza becomes drawn to Islam as a source of peace and clarity in a world dominated by chaos. When that calling evolves into an imperative to travel to Syria to join the fight, Reza must decide what it is that will make him a man: Love? Independence? A battle for what he believes in?

Khadivi's prose offers lyrical depictions of California's vast beauty and ocean aside clipped descriptions of the violence and hatred Reza experiences from his once-friends and neighbors. As Reza comes of age, A Good Country proves a riveting, heartbreaking portrait of one young man's yearning for a good country to call his own, "a life made of family and God and love." --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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