Terrorist (2006) is a novel written by revered American author John Updike. Although Updike's novels are all set in diverse towns across America and feature an equally diverse group of characters, the common thread that stitches all of his writing together is his commentary on America and his view that any character who is out of the ordinary in a small town will find it very difficult to fit in and gain acceptance. Updike also has a tendency to show society both how it really is and how different characters perceive it to be. Terrorist juxtaposes three different characters' view of events and of life in general which in turn leads to a fourth viewpoint, that of the reader who is drawing their own conclusion based on the three characters and their perspectives.
The novel is set in a northern New Jersey town that has its best days behind it. Traditionally blue collar, it has become run-down and a shadow of its former self as industry has taken its jobs overseas and manufacturing has all but dried up. The only growth is within the immigrant population, specifically Muslim immigrants, which has been difficult for the residents who lived in the town during 9/11 as they not only remember the events first hand but also saw the towers of the World Trade Center fall as a result of Islamic terrorism. Updike portrays a society that is filled with religious militants who are so fundamentally entrenched in the certainty that their is the only way that they seem oblivious to the positives that religious beliefs are supposed to have.
Although the plot of Terrorist relies a good deal on rather handy coincidences that allow unlikely characters to emerge as heroes, the book is not actually a true suspenseful thriller. It is more of an observational commentary about the real-life problems caused by the determination of politicians to create a new normal and their unrealistic expectation that people will be willing or able to forget their own or their country's history. There is a saying "wherever you go, there you are," which essentially means that even if your circumstances change you remain the same person; this is true for nations as well as the individual, and this is the central premise of the book. Updike cleverly uses the issue of forced diversity to make this observation.
John Updike has been a best-selling author for over fifty years and has been a stalwart of the New York Times Bestseller list. His other works include Rabbit, Run and The Witches of Eastwick.