One of the reasons I read is to expand my worldview. To read about people who are unlike me. The characters of Laleh Khadivi’s A Good Country are about as far removed from me as American young adults can be.
A Good Country follows Reza Courdee, the son of wealthy Iranian immigrants. A high school student at Laguna Prep in California, Rez enjoys smoking pot, surfing, sleeping with girls and skipping the classes he once got straight A’s in. But then the Boston Marathon bombing and an attack at the local mall happen, and the community that Rez once felt a part of begins to alienate and harass him.
Rez befriends a couple teenagers at his school, children of Middle Eastern immigrants who in the tumultuous environment find comfort and meaning in converting to Islam. Through these events and the atmosphere of the changes in Rez’s community, he begins to look for a sense of belonging. For Rez, that leads him to follow a path of radicalization.
This novel sits with you. It roots itself in your chest. It has been called necessary.
This story is empathetic to the people it writes about, yet doesn’t shy away from its realities.
A Good Country gets off to a slow start. I don’t really care about teenagers cutting class to go surf in Mexico and shirk responsibilities. I don’t care for stories where a lack of communication is a driving plot point (this book is not that, but in the beginning, I was concerned that it would follow that tired trope). I even put it down for a couple of weeks, unsure if I wanted to finish. When I picked it up again, the plot and tension gathered momentum and urged me to finish the book in an afternoon.
Ultimately, this is a story about how a boy who has everything physically but very little emotionally could be lead from a comfortable life to a terrifying potential.
A Good Country is part of a trilogy about generations of Kurdish men. It is a story of cycles—watching histories repeat themselves in different settings. I was sent this book without any knowledge of the prior two; each novel stands alone, and they do not need to be read in order to be understood. That being said, now that I have read the last book I am looking forward to tracing the histories of this family and seeing how Rez’s fate flowed not only from his own choices but how his family’s decisions also contributed to the ripple effect.
Without wanting to give away anything, what really got me, the reader/writer/editor/nerd, and made me want to gasp in delight on a physical level, is that after all the events of the book, the very last word is “love.” After everything, we’re left with love.