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The Good Son

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  1,528 ratings  ·  334 reviews

New York Times bestselling author Michael Gruber, a member of "the elite ranks of those who can both chill the blood and challenge the mind" (The Denver Post), delivers a taut, multilayered, riveting novel of suspense

Somewhere in Pakistan, Sonia Laghari and eight fellow members of a symposium on peace are being held captive by armed terrorists. Sonia, a deeply religiou

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Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published December 24th 2009)
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Newengland
What a pleasant surprise. You pick up a book expecting a political thriller and get not only that but a novel of ideas. I thrilled to the action scenes, sure, but I was more taken with the philosophical angles on, of all things, jihad.

That's right, that oxymoron of oxymorons -- "holy war"! Gruber sets it all up with an unusual confluence of Americans and Pakistanis, chiefly the American mother, Sonia Bailey Laghari, and her (good) American-Pakistani son, a professional killer with a conscience,
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Harry
Book review

"I learned more about the jihadist mindset in these pages—and in an entertaining way—than in all the cable-TV punditry I've seen since 9/11. Cerebral, emotional, heartfelt, this one's the complete package. President Obama, if you happen to come across this column, read this book." - Stephen King (from his #1 selection: The Best Books I Read in 2012)

Michael Gruber has done it again. As always, he has confounded this reader with his superlative mind. Moving from a shocking Shakespearean
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Ksenia Anske
I'm one of those people who grew up in Soviet Russia, like grass. I grew up without religion but have also somehow managed to escape the whole communist propaganda, partly because I was creating my own stories in my head, so it's difficult for me to talk about religion, war, and politics, as I'm not an expert. But I can tell you that The Good Son is more than just simply a political thriller, it's the book that everyone should read, to be able to get off the predisposed upbringing of Western cul ...more
Francoise
Trust Michael Gruber to write an unclassifiable book. Is it a thriller? Yes, complete with islamic mujahadeen, both dedicated and rogue CIA-types (and , yes, perhaps the rogue ones are the most dedicated...), kidnappings, beheadings, betrayals. Is it a book about sufi mysticism? Yes. Is it a book about Carl Jung? Yes. Is it a book about cross cultural (mis)understandings and how few people there are in the West who can understand even a word of the languages involved? Yes. Is it a book that give ...more
Joel Margolese
I am close to saying that this novel is essential reading for it's fantastic portrayal of Muslim extremists and what motivated them. And the counter arguments.

Michael Gruber has, over the past few years become one of, if not my favorite current author. His recent books cover a wide range of situations, history and culture. In each I feel like he is giving us a great understanding of the characters and their society. From medieval italy to modern new York. In this book he takes us into Pakistan,
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Ann Collette
If you can accept the premise of this many-faceted political thriller -- that a diverse group of noted professionals, including an American billionaire -- would go, with minimal armed protection, to the boonies in contemporary Pakistan for a conference on peace, you're in for a very intriguing read. This isn't a book you can gobble up in one night -- too many complex ideas are presented through the characters, who never come off as mouthpieces but are fully rounded, complicated human beings. Whe ...more
Elizabeth
The main plot revolves around a son (Theo Bailey) mounting a rescue of his mother (Sonia Bailey) who has been kidnapped by a group of terrorists. This mother, however, leaves the reader wondering why the son would bother to save her at all. When he was little, she abandoned him (more than once) to pursue her own interests. Also, she appeared to love and value another woman's son more than her own.

The characters' lives in the novel are so complicated that they seemed to live more than just one l
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Kristina
I’d had Michael Gruber’s The Good Son on my shelves since 2010 so I decided to read it. At first I didn’t think I was going to like it. I had that “eh, it’s kinda interesting but I’m not sold on it yet” feeling about the book. But I stuck with it and the more I read, the more I liked it. This is a very good book. It’s well-written, suspenseful, and includes the most amazing discussions about American-Middle East relations and religion. There are excerpts of poems and songs from Middle Eastern po ...more
Kater Cheek
My book club chose this book, and the response from some fellow members (whose opinion I admire) was lukewarm, so I am surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Of course, their main complaint is that Gruber uses uncommon words (gelid, deracinated) and obscure military terms a little too often without explanation. That's not one of my pet peeves.

The story involves a group of conference attendees, intellectuals and westerners among them, who are kidnapped on the way to their conference site a
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Yelena
If it was possible to give this novel six stars, then I’d be adding seven.

Told from the point of view of three main characters: Theo the “Good Son”, Sonia his mother, and Cynthia an NSA translator. Michael Gruber explores the nature of the USA security bureaucracy, the “war” on terrorism, Pashtun culture, Afghanistan, Pakistani society and the tenets of Islam ... from a Jungian perspective!

To put it simply, I found it a multifaceted and complex novel. “Second Son” is wholly responsible for two
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Miss GP
I read and loved Gruber's The Forgery of Venus: A Novel and The Book of Air and Shadows, and was very much looking forward to The Good Son. I was surprised at just how disappointed I was in it. My goodness, what flaws! Yes, the main characters have depth, but they're completely unbelievable. The set-up is very clumsy, and much of the background information the reader is given is provided in very stilted conversation (more like monologue, actually). The plot is largely predictable, somewhat ridic ...more
Bruce Stern
Michael Gruber’s newest thriller is more than that. In fact, it’s at least two distinct stories. One is the thriller—a mother gets kidnapped (along with a bunch of her friends—professional colleagues), in war-torn Pakistan. Her son, an American black ops soldier conspires to rescue her, and the NSA gets involved in the shenanigans. This is all pretty straightforward and mostly unexciting, although torture . The other part of this tale is by far the fascinating, imaginative and also enlightening ...more
Greg Zimmerman
Isn't it great when a novel surprises you? Despite the fact that Michael Gruber's The Good Son contained three of my literary pet peeves -- story told in flashback, story told in alternating strains of storyline, and dreams and their interpretations playing important roles in the story -- I really enjoyed it.

Gruber is known as a writer with incredible range, writing books about forged paintings, lost Shakespeare plays, cop thrillers, and now this: a ripped-from-the-headlines international thrill
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Ron
This was an informative and absorbing tour through the quote-unquote war on terror and family dynamics, two of the more harrowing places in which to find yourself. Gruber clearly knows his stuff, on both fronts. I can't say I liked the main characters, but I did respect, as well as empathize with them. You can't ask for more than that.

The book lapsed a little too often into exposition to move the story along, and I found myself having to reread sections to understand what was happening, especial
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Flannery
This book is really amazing. It´s a thriller, a book about cultural differences and about Jung´s psychology. It´s about expectations, prejudices, paranoia. There´s really a lot of paranoia.

The story divides itself into three parts. One part is about Theo, the son. The question wether he is the good son out of the title is a good one. The reader is open to guess - at the end of the book there are obviously two candidates for this title. Anyway, Theo is an army soldier, half american and half pak
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Jon
I am a fan of Michael Gruber and have read (almost) all his books, so you might think I'm biased--but a glance over the Goodreads reviews finds almost everyone giving this one at least 4 stars. It is an astonishingly complex and multifaceted description of middle-eastern as opposed to western values and religious outlooks, all wrapped up in a spy thriller. My only reservations are that it starts ponderously, having to initiate many threads, and that the characters' backgrounds are hardly credibl ...more
Mary Lou
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Judy
Jul 01, 2010 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone

About two years ago, in an effort to keep up with books on the paperback fiction shelves at Once Upon A Time (where I used to work and for which I blog) I read Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows. It almost made my Top 10 list that year (there was stiff competition from the likes of Michael Chabon, Suzanne Collins, Toni Morrison and more) but I went on to hand sell many copies and my husband became a fan as well.

The Good Son is his latest and it is a great read. Some of the gratuitous flippan
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Jana
I gave up halfway through for all the reasons given in the review by Elizabeth on November 5, 2010:

I loved Elizabeth's synopsis of the characters who I found unbelievable. Elizabeth said: "Sonia, for instance, was raised in an American circus, marries a Pakistani man, travels throughout Pakistan disguised as a boy with a Sufi mystic, writes a bestselling book, travels to Zurich, becomes a trained Jungian psychologist, rescues Theo when he was young man, and becomes a crusader for world peace. Th
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Meagan
Nancy Pearl again. 2 books in one day. Shall we make it 3?

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Well, I'm afraid I'm going to damn this book with some faint praise.

There's a lot of intriguing stuff in The Good Son, mostly stemming from its point of view. The main characters straddle two worlds almost equally: the traditional Islamic world of Pakistan and the modern Western world. As a result, the story feels balanced. You're presented with an idea of jihad that transcends the knee-jerk panic we've been trained to
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Sarah
Apr 30, 2012 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sarah by: Carolyn
There are books about Pakistan and Afghanistan written by natives that are spot-on fascinating accounts of life there, for example Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, which is heart-breaking and beautiful and worth reading again. However with the rise of neo-Orientalism, or whatever it's called, has come a long line of authors with South Asian names and no real writing abilities who've dumped trite books full of stereotypes, often full of preconceptions conflating ethnic differences with chara ...more
Mary Holland
A beautifully written and thought-provoking thriller. Only Michael Gruber would have a female Jungian psychologist, who is also both a Muslim and a Catholic, be captured by Islamic terrorists. I am always astonished at this author's ability to render unfamiliar societies in depth and detail: life in upper class Pakistani society, life in the poor villages of Pakistan, the much shallower lives of what a character calls the "chattering classes" in America, growing up as a young boy in the jihad, a ...more
Suzanne Kittrell
A good summer read but M. Gruber treads on the edges of my mind so I have to take pleasure in some of the smaller things that make his books interesting. Like learning about "ghazels" which are Urdu love poetry (many times set to melodies) of such beauty and heart wrenching sadness or happiness. This book tells a tale set in Pakistan and Afghanistan and of course the CIA and the Taliban who are all involved in a serpentine plot. But the author gave me a good picture of the society of that part o ...more
Kay
I love Michael Gruber's work and always buy his books but I must say I was disappointed in this one. The central character, the mother, was very unsympathetic and unbelievable. Gruber manipulated her motivations to the point of silliness. I did enjoy the inside peek at life in the Middle East, especially since I have lived there, but overall I got weary of his USA bashing. America has her problems but the source of all evil is the country's desire for democracy, fueled by ambitions for nothing m ...more
Debra
Sep 06, 2013 Debra marked it as to-read
Stephen King recommended: He said: "Sonia Bailey, a remarkably astute woman with a colorful backstory, leads a peace delegation into Pakistan, where her party is kidnapped by jihadists. Her son Theo sets an elaborate rescue plot in motion...but Sonia has a few tricks up her own sleeve. Let's just say she out-mullahs the mullahs. The suspense is terrific, but in this book it's a bonus. I learned more about the jihadist mindset in these pages--and in an entertaining way--than in all the cable-TV p ...more
Karen
This is an amazing book for those of you who like literary/intellectual thrillers. Gruber has a political background and his insight into the inner workings of the fundamentalist mindset feels astoundingly real. The most unforgettable character is Sonia,a woman who ran away from her Pakistani husband and posed as a Pashtun boy in order to travel to Mecca with a Sufi master. Later in life, after a family tragedy, she becomes a Jungian analyst. In the present, she is being held hostage by the Tali ...more
Diane
I don’t usually like books with violence, but I loved Michael Gruber’s The Good Son.

I don’t usually like books with improbable characters, but I loved Michael Gruber’s The Good Son

I don’t usually like books with political intrigue, but I loved Michael Gruber’s The Good Son.

I also liked that the book was complex with lots to think about. I think it would make a good book club book.

I wrote down a quote from page 220, and, on one level, it provides one possible summary of the book:
The only people
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Jane
Wow! I didn't know what to expect from this author as I've never read him. I now want to read everything he has written! I love finding a new author! This is a mother/son story. She is taken hostage along with a group she has organized for a symposium on peace in Pakistan - her husband's homeland. Her son came of age in Pakistan, but is currently in the American Army Special Ops. And it goes from there. I learned so much about the culture of that part of the world. It is a wonderful read. I actu ...more
Karen
In this book Gruber is tough on Muslim extremists as well as the U.S. I also felt, however, that it is full of contradictions. It points out the absurdness of the jihad, but also implies that stupid Americans could never really understand the complexities of the Koran, or the Afghanistan/Pakistan culture. It details the animal-like treatment of women, then suggests that is the way it has to be because of Islam. Overall, Gruber presents very real issues definitely worth exploring.
Paul
I enjoyed parts of The Good Son; I hated others. Michael Gruber's novel is a 100-page thriller padded out to nearly 400 pages with explanatory speeches put into the mouths of secondary characters you really don't give a shit about . . . and if you, like me, think religion is just an excuse for people to oppress other people, you won't give a shit about the content of the speeches either. The thriller, though, is whiz-bang . . . complex and timely.
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Michael Gruber is an author living in Seattle, Washington. He attended Columbia University and received his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Miami. He worked as a cook, a marine biologist, a speech writer, a policy advisor for the Jimmy Carter White House, and a bureaucrat for the EPA before becoming a novelist.

He is generally acknowledged to be the ghostwriter of the popular Robert K. Tane
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More about Michael Gruber...
The Book of Air and Shadows The Forgery of Venus Tropic of Night (Jimmy Paz, #1) The Witch's Boy Valley of Bones (Jimmy Paz, #2)

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“It's part of what we call the Shadow, all the dark parts of us we can't face. It's the thing that, if we don't deal with it, eventually poisons our lives.” 17 likes
“As a matter of fact I had a terribly traumatic childhood. But afterward I sort of reraised myself.” 6 likes
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