One of the most enjoyable things about becoming a novelist is hearing from readers. Some of the neatest e-mails come from kids, especially those who have chosen one of my novels for a book report. I’ll share with you a question I received from a student. (I won’t put him on the spot by revealing his name.) But he wrote to say he was doing a paper on the themes in THE MULLAH’S STORM, and he wanted to know where to start. Here’s my answer:
Thank you for your note. I’m honored that you chose THE MULLAH’S STORM for a school project, and I’ll be happy to help you.
THE MULLAH’S STORM has two main themes. Both of them deal with things that the main character, Major Michael Parson, learns along the way as he treks through the Afghan mountains with Sergeant Gold and the prisoner.
The first is that Parson must learn his mission comes first, even before loyalty to his friends and crewmates. In most circumstances, loyalty to his friends and completion of his mission would go hand-in-hand. But in the opening chapter of the novel, Parson must choose whether to stay with his crewmates (and probably die with them) or strike out on his own to keep the prisoner, a high-ranking Taliban mullah, in custody. As you’ll recall from reading the book, Parson really doesn’t want to leave his friends behind. But he must make their sacrifice worthwhile by completing the mission they had begun.
The second theme has to do with Parson’s prejudices. In the beginning, Muslim terrorists have shot down his plane and killed his friends. He hates all Muslims. But Sergeant Gold, a Pashto interpreter and an expert on Afghan culture, helps him learn that he cannot judge all Muslims by the actions of terrorists. Later in the novel he meets Najib, and Parson eventually risks his own life to save Najib’s.
Parson’s very name is symbolic. “Parson” is an old-fashioned word for a Christian preacher. Though my character Parson is not particularly religious, his name represents Western, largely Christian society, which finds itself in conflict with radical Islam, represented by the mullah.
I hope this helps with your paper. If you have more questions, feel free to e-mail me. Thank you again for your interest in my novels. I certainly appreciate it!
With all best wishes,