Godsend

John Wray

A Novel

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Inspired by the story of John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban,” Whiting Award–winning author John Wray explores the circumstances that could impel a young American to abandon identity and home to become an Islamist militant.

Like many other eighteen-year-olds, Aden Sawyer is intently focused on a goal: escape from her hometown. Her plan will take her far from her mother’s claustrophobic house, where the family photos have all been turned to face the wall; far from the influence of her domineering father—a professor of Islamic studies—and his new wife.

Aden’s dream, however, is worlds removed from conventional fantasies of teen rebellion: she is determined to travel to Peshawar, Pakistan, to study Islam at a madrasa. To do so, she takes on a new identity, disguising herself as a young man named Suleyman. Aden fully commits to this new life, even burning her passport to protect her secret. But once she is on the ground, she finds herself in greater danger than she could possibly have imagined. Faced with violence, disillusionment, and loss, Aden must make choices that will test not only her faith but also her most fundamental understanding of who she is, and that will set her on a wild, fateful course toward redemption by blood. John Wray’s Godsend is a coming-of-age novel like no other.

Praise for Godsend

“[A] disturbing image of disaffected youth and the lures of extremism.”
—Publishers Weekly

“I’ve just spent every spare moment in a fever heat reading Godsend, and I’m truly dazzled by its daring literal and psychological border-crossings, its tonal complexity, and its pitiless compassion. Nothing is foreign to John Wray’s imagination. I hope I can write half as fearlessly one day.”
—Karen Russell, author of Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Swamplandia!

“John Wray is making a place for himself among our greatest living writers. Godsend is a wonder to me: a fearless book about a terrifying subject. The elegance and daring of this novel left me dizzy.”
—Akhil Sharma, author of Family Life

“This novel crosses lines that fiction should, stretching the imagination from suburban California to a jihadi training camp in the foothills of the Hindu Kush. Wray’s taut prose propels a gripping narrative that stands head and shoulders above most fiction about America’s war on terror.”
—Hari Kunzru, author of White Tears

John Wray is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The Lost Time Accidents, Lowboy, The Right Hand of Sleep, and Canaan’s Tongue. He was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists in 2007. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.