American Mother

National Book Award winner Colum McCann (Apeirogon; Letters to a Young Writer; Thirteen Ways of Looking) lends his considerable skill to Diane Foley's story in American Mother, a memoir of her experience as the mother of Jim Foley, a journalist held hostage for years before being brutally executed in 2014 by ISIS fighters. The book introduces Foley's distinctive voice, unassuming but insistent, as she reckons with the darkness brought on by hate and evil--and returns again and again to grace and mercy.

Foley's is a faith-filled life, and she makes no secret of her deep commitment to God. But this is no proselytizing narrative, offering instead a look at the astonishing power that comes from seeing the holiness (however that may be defined) of everyone, even those who have committed the most egregious harms. During her improbable meeting with one of the men convicted of her son's murder, she is moved by the picture of his young daughters, and wars within herself: "She understands what he is doing: he is fully invested in humanizing himself. What else did she expect? Even the worst of humans demand a portion of love." 

Foley's conversations with this man are written in a close third-person voice, allowing readers to view her actions from an outside perspective. These sections bracket the central narrative, told in first-person with Foley speaking for herself. Though the voices don't blend seamlessly, the overall effect is a powerful examination of unforgivable pain met with extraordinary forgiveness. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

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