cover image In Our Other Lives

In Our Other Lives

Theodore Wheeler. Little A, $24.95 (292p) ISBN 978-1542016520

Wheeler (Kings of Broken Things) tracks the effects of a young man’s disappearance in Pakistan on his family in this unsettling meditation on religious extremism. After Tyler Ahls is reported kidnapped by the Haqqani terrorist network in Pakistan during a solo Christian missionary trip, his motives are called into question following the release of a ransom video (“Missing American Found; Turncoat?” reads a caption from a cable news network). Tyler’s sister, Elizabeth Holland, holds out hope for Tyler, and when her mother, who runs a Christian-themed gift shop called Apostle Crossing, calls to say Tyler’s still alive, Elizabeth thinks first of her husband, who left her three years ago and hasn’t been seen since. As FBI Agent Frank Schwaller investigates Tyler’s past in an effort to determine whether he is a proselytizing innocent or a terrorist, Schwaller uncovers past emails in which Tyler expresses worry that his vision for a Christian compound around Apostle Crossing will face the same fate as the Branch Davidians. Schwaller frequently follows and interrogates Elisabeth, which takes a toll on her sanity, while she reflects on how Tyler was lost to her well before Pakistan, once he became fanatical about his beliefs. Wheeler’s rich blending of Elisabeth’s grief over her lost husband and isolation from her family with transcripts from Schwaller’s investigation slowly builds an inviting tale. Readers will be intrigued by Wheeler’s provocative juxtaposition of extremism in both Christian and Muslim ideologies. (Mar.)