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3.16  ·  Rating Details ·  3,533 Ratings  ·  461 Reviews
The ever-surprising John Updike’s twenty-second novel is a brilliant contemporary fiction that will surely be counted as one of his most powerful. It tells of eighteen-year-old Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy and his devotion to Allah and the words of the Holy Qur’an, as expounded to him by a local mosque’s imam.

The son of an Irish-American mother and an Egyptian father who disappear
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by Knopf (first published 2006)
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Mar 09, 2009 brian rated it it was ok
i’ve been an atheist as long as i can remember and my life, in part, has been a feigned attempt toward belief. i will never believe and know this, so i scramble toward god as a tightrope walker over a net of godlessness. the point, i guess, is to get as close as possible to something i know i’ll never reach; a more sophisticated (or not) form of a kid throwing a fit after having learned that santa claus is just some miserable minimum wage worker with a fake white beard and boozy breath.

Oct 31, 2008 Ruth rated it did not like it
Shelves: dof-didnotfinish
Oh John, oh John. You ignored the idea of "write what you know." What you know well, and write beautifully about, are WASP middle-aged men of a certain socio-economic group. What you don't know is African-Americans and Muslims. You never shoulda wandered from your own back yard.

This book is so full of breath-taking stereotypes that I cringed. Gack.
Dec 04, 2013 Jack rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Updike fans and those curious about why radical Islamics hate America
Shelves: jackrecommends
John Updike has earned a mantel full of awards, including a Pulitzer and a National Book Award. He knows people and he knows how tough even the most mundane lives can be. And Updike knows how to write. At his best when writing of “normal” people living flawed, empathetic lives, Updike stretches himself in his latest novel, “Terrorist.”

He writes the story of eighteen-year-old Ahmad Mulloy, the American son of an Egyptian exchange student father who ran off when Ahmad was three without so much as
Jul 10, 2016 Jaime rated it did not like it
Okay, I didn’t exactly finish this one, but I’m finished with it. I gave it 105 pages. Do you want to know what happened in 105 pages? Ahmad met with his guidance counselor, went to church, and went to a lesson with his Qur’an teacher. That’s it. I was so bored with this that I couldn’t even bring myself to care about the blatant anti-Americanism and misogynism. The red light started flashing when I hit the 18 page description of a church mass (or whatever it’s called when it’s not a Catholic ...more
Sep 10, 2010 Stacey rated it liked it
Tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of September 11th, and if you really want to scare the daylights out of yourself in memoriam, then John Updike’s Terrorist can help you out with that. It is a creepy, timely, get-under-your-skin-and-make-you-itch kind of novel. But before I get to all that, I must digress a little.

John Updike is also the author of one of my favorite short stories to teach to high school students, titled “A&P.” Notice how I said it’s one of my favorites, not theirs. First of
Jun 29, 2009 Adam rated it really liked it
Terrorist is John Updike's last novel. The novel opens and closes with Ahmad Allowy's inner thought, "These Devils seek to take away my God," and, at the end, "These Devils have taken away my God."
Ahmad is a devout Muslim youth living in New Prospect, NJ, about to graduate from high school. He's living with his white mother, an artist, whose life is not quite as structured as Ahmad's. Ahmad is an outsider at school - his religious devotion is at odds with the loose, irreverent culture he sees
Jul 17, 2007 Casey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with nothing else to read.
The main trouble with Terrorist is in the voicing of the characters. The anti-hero, Ahmad, is a half-Arab American teenager who is groomed to become a terrorist by the imam at a local mosque. In many ways, besides his faith, he is a typical teen, self-concerned, withdrawn, and amazed at the hypocricy of adults. Yet Updike, for whatever reason, inserts his stodgy authorial voice into Ahmad's body, making him sound like a geriatric middle-eastern diplomat. Despite having grown up in America, Ahmad ...more
Apr 18, 2009 Lark rated it did not like it
How is this guy so successful? This book is crap. Young utterly stereotypical Muslim kid who has an Irish mother (so that updike could describe her hair and temper every 3 pages) is seduced into a terrorist cell. Also included are stereotypical, completely unbelievable Black high-school aged reluctant prostitutes and stereotypical, completely unbelievable sympathetic and apparently telepathic English teachers.
Feb 05, 2015 Shane rated it liked it
Terrorism is on everyone’s mind these days and so I wondered how Updike would treat the subject in this book written post 9/11 but before the more recent spate of terrorist attacks that have extended to countries outside the United States.

Ahmad is a US citizen, born in that country of an Irish-American mother and an absentee Egyptian father. Despite being raised by his mother, he is drawn to his father’s faith and is schooled by the shadowy imam Sheikh Rashid to follow the Straight Path of restr
Jan 26, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it
In 2006, the Don of American Literature was finally ready to address the events of 9/11.

I recall that this was a time, for American artists, of numbness, of complete loss of hope and faith in the humanity we as artists struggle so tirelessly to portray, to express, to challenge, and to understand. As tons of debris were being hauled from World Trade Center Plaza, and the place was being dusted off and readied for a new era, so were America’s artists hauling out their own psychic detritus, in so
Stephen Gallup
May 10, 2013 Stephen Gallup rated it really liked it
Although it had been decades since I read anything by Updike, I still have clear memories of his short stories about the Maples, his Rabbit series, and The Centaur. Like others, I’ve been guilty of pigeonholing him as being preoccupied with conventional middle-class people and their domestic issues (divorce, etc.). I also sensed that it wasn’t fair to do that. In terms of craft, his use of literary devices is so smooth that one can read right past something that’s exceedingly clever without even ...more
Jan 02, 2011 Barry rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 03, 2009 Katecoffman rated it it was amazing
Our book group read this last month, and I think I'm the only one who really liked it. Updike's writing is, as always, wonderful--great descriptions of his main characters, a 17-yr-old h.s. senior who is half-Irish and half-middle Eastern and who becomes a devout Muslim, his mother, a would-be artist, and his h.s. guidance counselor, 60+ and Jewish. The kid, of course, gets pulled into a terrorist cell, and . . . It occurred to me later that the title may be ironic--
Karma, read it just for the w
Mar 18, 2010 Tim rated it did not like it
This was my first Updike.

Not a good choice.

One word describes this book: awful.
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 22, 2007 Bart rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Fans of mundanity
Not long ago, I read an introduction to a large collection of Updike's short stories, which was written by Updike himself. If I remember correctly, it ends with him describing his charge as "giv[ing] the mundane its beautiful due."

Updike's still working overtime with the mundane in Terrorist, but there's almost nothing beautiful or dutiful about this story. Instead, it's composed of mediocre persons trying to be larger than life - or at least only halfheartedly resisting Updike's trying to make
Courtney Lindwall
Aug 17, 2010 Courtney Lindwall rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Prose
Shelves: 2010
So, in the academic program I'm in at my high school, you pick a topic to do a big essay on during Senior Year. Your ~*Extended Essay*~. Apparently a big deal. Or something.... So, anyway, I chose to do an analytical paper on this novel. My research question is: "How do Updike's Western prejudices affect his characterization of the main Muslim character, Ahmad?" Of course, because my rough draft was done in a complete rush, I don't have my ideas really written out how I'd like yet, but I have ...more
Nov 06, 2007 Christina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2007
I picked up this John Updike book while on vacation in Praque. The subject of the book was really interesting and this novel should be one of his easier accessible books. Also, I've been wanting to read Updike for a while since my favourite writer Joyce Carol Oates is always compared to him.
I must say, I really enjoyed it. The story kept me enthralled and I find myself thinking about it all the time. Wondering if the reality he describes, is true. Wondering what to do if he is right.
The story is
Dec 04, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
In some ways Updike has written a perfect book. Expertly researched and thought-provoking, yet a perfectly paced, page-turner thriller in its own right. Just the right number of characters, all complex, imperfect, and beautifully drawn. Many times I had to remind myself that this book is fiction, and must be taken as such, which I consider a tribute to the research and writing. But, be warned, the book is consistently negative, cynical and depressing in tone. There is a cat in the book, and even ...more
Aug 12, 2008 K rated it it was ok
Shelves: culturalidentity
This was the first Updike book I read. I can see that he's a skilled writer, but overall I was unimpressed with this book. I found the dialogue excessively lengthy and didactic, and the pacing pretty slow. I also thought that the characterization was inconsistent and odd; for example, the main character, who was American-born and educated, usually spoke extremely formally like an ESL student -- except when he didn't, occasionally using more casual slang for no apparent reason. The main character ...more
Susan Emmet
Nov 06, 2015 Susan Emmet rated it really liked it
Perhaps I'm ignorant of so much about Islamic faith and belief, but I found Updike's last book terrifying and powerful.
The march to belief, under the tutelage of his imam, leads Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy, son of an Irish-American mother and absent Muslim father, on a direct path to terrorism.
What hit me so hard was Updike's skill in getting inside the head of a teenager, capturing his yearnings and anger, and merging his supposedly pristine faith with the ugliness and squalor of his New Prospect, NJ
Sep 07, 2007 Sangeeta rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am becoming a serial abandoner of books. Can't even blame this promiscuousness on the fact that I belong to a library, as I find myself loving and leaving even books that I've bought on warm, fuzzy afternoons at Crossword.

Anyhow, Mr. Updike, if you're reading this, blame it on my shallowness, and get on with your surfing, because I don't think you'll like the fact that I started your book, liked your protagonist, really 'got' the voice of the book, and then, Boom! So long and thanks for all th
Dec 05, 2008 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I can really comment on whether it is an accurate portrait of a terrorist-in-waiting, but I really enjoyed this portrait of an alienated ("socially excluded," to use the British term) teen (aren't they all?). I read 1 or 2 of the Rabbit books many years ago and did not think they were very compelling unless the reader is Rabbit-like. Ahmad is a much more accessible character. Liked the New Jersey-ness of it. Can't decide if choice of name of Tylenol for minor African-American ...more
Mark Juric
Apr 16, 2011 Mark Juric rated it it was amazing
Forget Stephen King. This is hands-down one of the most frightening books I've ever read. In no uncertain terms, Updike shows us how the quest for God can be perverted into a desire to suppress, diminish, and eventually destroy those with different beliefs. He burrows so deeply into the mind of the believer that he seduces you into following their logic, and frightens you with how quickly you discard even the most basic respect for life outside that framework.
Lynn Buschhoff
Feb 25, 2015 Lynn Buschhoff rated it really liked it
I had never even heard of this book until I found it in a book exchange. It is 8 years old but it seems very much a book for now. It is a fairly quick read. The writing is very good and the author treats the subject with kind of insight and respect that is so often lost in the din of hysteria and outrage writing. I found it to be a hopeful book..
Jul 05, 2012 Tanya rated it really liked it
In-depth, analytic approach to characterization. John Updike works hard to show all sides of a story, and is almost objective except for his treatment of the head of Homeland Security. Beautiful word pictures abound throughout.
Aug 10, 2014 Natasha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really thought this book was a waste of time. The characters were written as charicatures of stereotypes. There wasn't one character that could be empathized with. Don't bother.
Aug 12, 2012 Chavi rated it did not like it
This is what happens when my Goodreads app won't load at the library.
Sep 01, 2010 Parksy rated it really liked it
Shelves: political-social
Sad... didn't notice that I read it around the Sept 11th anniversary...


From Publishers Weekly
Ripped from the headlines doesn't begin to describe Updike's latest, a by-the-numbers novelization of the last five years' news reports on the dangers of home-grown terror that packs a gut punch. Ahmad Mulloy Ashmawy is 18 and attends Central High School in the New York metro area working class city of New Prospect, N.J. He is the son of an Egyptian exchange student who married a working-class I
Nov 15, 2010 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good book that lacks depth in character, in Ahmad, but rich characters overall. No doubt, Updike leaves Ahmad lacking in depth on purpose because he thinks all absolutist do not have complexity to them.

Essentially, I think the book is about the search for meaning in our daily life filled with consumeristic impulses that seems to be a bottomless pit. Ahmed also wants to do something that is greater than himself a self-sacrifice that is significant in the world instead of succumbing to the
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Late Updike 1 7 Jan 27, 2015 02:38AM  
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John Hoyer Updike was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, ...more
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“He showed the world what can be done against the odds, against a superpower. He showed -- and this is where Vietnam and Iraq come in, that in a war between an imperialist occupier and the people who actually live there, the people will eventually prevail. They know the terrain. They have more at stake. They have nowhere else to go.” 3 likes
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