cover image The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy

The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy

Masha Gessen. Riverhead, $27.95 (274p) ISBN 978-1-59463-264-8

Journalist Gessen (Words Will Break Cement) tackles the making of a terrorist, tracing the lives and family history of the Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The study traces their roots through their mother Zubeidat's family in Dagestan and their father Anzor's in Kyrgyzstan, where Stalin exiled the Chechens after WWII. Anzor and Zubeidat moved briefly to Chechnya, where Dzhokhar was born in 1993; the family later fled Russian air raids and landed in Cambridge, Mass., in 2002. Piecing together various interviews with associates of the family, Gessen paints Tamerlan as "an exemplary child" "destined for greatness," rudderless and possibly radicalized by a 2012 visit to Dagestan; his younger brother, Dzhokhar, was the "sweet kid" turned "campus pot dealer." The bombing is the backdrop to a larger conversation on the lawless implications of the War on Terror, including terrorist-recruiting FBI sting operations that give credence to a compelling theory that Tamerlan was a recruit "gone rogue." The book is both meticulously researched and provocative, and Gessen asks courageous questions about the dark side of the justice system, providing a vital counternarrative to the account of the bombing given by mainstream media. (Apr.)