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AMERICAN MOTHER by Colum McCann Kirkus Star


by Colum McCann with Diane Foley

Pub Date: March 5th, 2024
ISBN: 9798985882452
Publisher: Etruscan Press

An indelible portrait of a mother’s courage.

Award-winning novelist McCann and Foley, mother of murdered journalist James Wright Foley (1973-2014), offer a powerful recounting of the unspeakable tragedy and its aftermath. In August 2014, after being held hostage for two years, Jim was beheaded by Islamic Group terrorists. He had been taken hostage once before, in Libya, but that time was released after 44 days. Undaunted, he went to Syria “determined to bear witness to the horrific bombings and gassings of innocent civilians by the Assad regime.” After he was taken hostage, the Foley family, to their deepening dismay, discovered that the U.S. refused unequivocally to negotiate for hostages’ release, and the Foleys were threatened with prosecution if they tried to raise ransom money on their own. Meanwhile, though, through “an incredibly circuitous route,” several European governments managed to free their own hostages. “They insinuated themselves carefully into the communications system,” the authors write, “got under the umbrella of the emails, and forged their own secret methods that included a network of agents and ambassadors and, yes, even spies.” Foley vents her anger toward the many government officials who claimed they were powerless to help. “The plain fact of the matter is that we don’t care as much for our aid workers or our volunteer ambulance drivers or our journalists as we do for our military,” the authors assert. Foley and her family founded the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation to advocate for the freedom of those taken hostage or detained abroad, and she takes hope from recent legislation, most recently by Biden’s executive order, in support of hostages. Hoping for “answers to help her in the wider work against hostage-taking,” Foley met with one of the terrorists involved in her son’s murder—unsettling encounters that bracket the striking narrative.

A harrowing memoir of grief and love.