J C Carleson, former CIA officer and novelist, takes us into the murky and troubled world of two children, 15 year old Laila and her young brother Bastien, who along with their mother flee the Middle Eastern nation where her father, the former dictator, was assassinated and overthrown by his brother, Laila’s uncle.
Now Laila and her family must navigate in a new country and culture radically different from her native county – which is never far away from her thoughts as her peers learn more about her, her family, and her native country; as news of the on-going conflict filters in through TV, the Internet; and through the shadowy figures in both the US intelligence agencies and the opposition from her native country, who live in her community, and who seek to bring Laila and her family to their side.
The result is The Tyrant’s Daughter (to be published by Alfred A. Knopf) a twisting and turning novel in which the juxtaposition of Laila’s native culture and turbulent life is placed against the suburban American setting she finds herself in. But as the story unfolds, a larger reality has Laila discovering a dark and deceitful secret she chooses to enter into and gain a measure of control for her own life.
The Tyrant’s Daughter is novel of many threads – the cultural differences between Laila and her American classmates, the navigation of adolescence and adolescent relationships, the differences between a war torn nation and one with peace and prosperity, the role and place of women in societies ruled by men, the emerging political power of women, and the human dynamics within families of the haves and have nots in a culture and country at war – woven together with a credible cast of characters. The result is a novel which should cause readers young and old to think about the political and human costs of conflict within non-democratic nations.
I really enjoyed this novel because of the characters and the wonderful plot which had me guessing at every turn. It also raises issues about a subject, raised in the afterward comments and commentary, about what happens to families-in-exile and how they are affected by the loss of power.
I rate this book an ‘outstanding’ read.
Note: I received an advanced galley copy of the book via Net Galley from the publisher in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.