John Wray is a novelist who crosses boundaries. As a journalist he travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he followed the path taken by the ‘American Taliban’ – John Walker Lindh. And it was there he heard a rumour which gave him the inspiration for Godsend.
In Godsend, Wray has found a way for the reader to walk the same trail, crossing those boundaries, with the main character, Aden Grace Sawyer. Aden is a young girl who, in order to follow her belief in the Muslim faith, leaves her family and the world of California for Pakistan and ultimately, jihadi training grounds. Entering this world means concealing herself as a young man.
The transition from an apparently typical American teenager to an Islamic fundamentalist is brutal, shocking, and revealing. Wray reasons his way methodically with his lean prose style, which is scalpel-like in uncovering prejudices and preconceptions on all sides. But there is also sympathy, understanding, and a warm humanity to be found too.
Godsend is an adventure story on several levels. There is the pursuit of faith and the physical and spiritual conflicts involved; the clash of cultural beliefs between vastly different bodies and its consequences on the ground when both personal and impersonal retribution strikes; and the moral and ethical parameters of the individual, groups and organisations are stretched to breaking point.
John Wray’s Godsend sends a message in its title and Wray delivers a thought-provoking and powerful message direct to the head and the heart.