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Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Widow's Letter to Bin Laden

London is reeling from the latest suicide bomb attack launched by terrorists. The Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal football club, has been blown to smithereens during the last game of the season on May Day. Within hours the surrounding streets of the city are closed, bridges across the Thames heavily policed and all traffic along the river terminated in case of additional attacks.

Over the next few weeks the death toll grows to over one thousand as England mourns her dead. Prince William tours the ward at Guy’s Hospital where many of the survivors of the bombing are hospitalized while top, government officials hide behind their advance knowledge of the attack.

“Incendiary” is narrated as a letter to Obama by a widow of a police officer, killed at the game that he took their four-year old son to. As she grieves she writes a letter advising Bin Laden of all he is responsible for. The story told with the grim humor of the British working class often delights in it’s madness and alternatively brings tears as she bravely tackles her new world, alone and with some degree of insanity.

The awfulness of the story and its proximity of London often reminded me, in its wonderful deliberate descriptive passages, of Chris Obani’s novella “Becoming Abigail”. When she describes the aftermath of the blast, the tower of smoke arising from the rubble as “angry and urgent like it was late for something” we feel the heat and smell the fumes. Her poignant description of her child as “boy is a good smell it is a cross between angels and tigers” you can understand the fierce love she has for her son.

Cleave’s debut novel leaves one spell-bound as he takes us along for the mad dash on to Lambeth Bridge and tramples us over the edge into the river and immerses us in his break-through thriller.

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