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American Mother


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Acclaimed author Colum McCann tells the story of Diane Foley, whose son Jim was kidnapped and killed by ISIS, exploring what it takes to keep going in the face of unimaginable pain and the power of channelling that pain to help others.

About the Author

Colum McCann is the author of six novels and three collections of stories. His work has been published in forty languages and has received many international honours, including a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, election to the Irish arts academy and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China and an Oscar nomination. He is the co-founder of the non-profit global story exchange organisation, Narrative 4, and he teaches at the MFA program in Hunter College. He was born in Dublin and lives in New York. Diane Foley has a masters in nursing from the University of New Hampshire and worked as a family nurse practitioner for 18 years before becoming the founder and current president of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.


Diane Foley’s faith and empathy ... is nothing short of miraculous. And when, finally, Kotey shakes her hand, something an Isis man would never usually do, he seems to be quite as in awe of her courage as any reader will be
*Sunday Times*

This is an extraordinary story of grace, forgiveness and moral courage. Bookended by Diane Foley's meetings with her son's killer, American Mother plunges us into the heart of darkness and then, somehow, on the far end, discovers unexpected light and hope. Diane Foley's voice, as captured by Colum McCann, is one of the most compelling in recent literary memory. An honest, searing, heartbreaking book
*Patrick Radden Keefe*

Profoundly moving … As much about a search for forgiveness - and its limits - as a description of horror, love and spiritual endurance … A woman of remarkable courage and emotional intellect who describes her profound religious belief with humility … McCann's writing here is excoriating in its detail … I cannot recall ever crying so much while reading a book
*New Statesman*

Powerful and devastating … reading this book is to be side by side with Diane
*Daily Mail*

As an explanation of grief American Mother is elegant . . . What marks it out is how Diane Foley became an unlikely political activist . . . Graceful and compassionate
*Irish Independent*

This is a book of agony, where the greatest of all may be Diane Foley’s ignorance of what really happened to her son . . . Remarkable, stirring
*Irish Times*

She has put her extraordinarily painful experiences into a powerful new book simply but beautifully titled American Mother
*i news*

Story of grace and possible redemption … It is impossible to read American Mother without remembering McCann’s magnificent seventh 2020 novel Apeirogon … Excellent
*Irish Examiner*

One of the most extraordinary stories that I have read in years

Having lived through every mother’s worst nightmare and somehow survived, Diane Foley leads with her heart in her fierce advocacy for Americans captured abroad. Now, in this book, she helps us understand how that is possible by inviting us to walk with her through some of the hardest moments of her life, courageously facing the unthinkable, sharing a candour that takes your breath away, and a deep hope that generations to come will never have to face what she did
*Judy Woodruff*

The acclaimed novelist Colum McCann makes his nonfiction debut with American Mother, a book written with Diane Foley, whose son, the journalist James Foley, was murdered by Islamic State in 2014
*Observer, Nonfiction to look out for in 2024*

Working with Irish novelist McCann, Diane Foley, mother of the murdered journalist James Foley, recounts the desperate story of his capture in Syria in 2014,efforts to secure his release, his public execution and its aftermath
*Guardian, Books to Look Out for in 2024*

The story of the mother of the journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria and murdered by the Islamic State in a public beheading a decade ago. Told in collaboration with one of Ireland’s most acclaimed novelists (Apeirogon, Let The Great World Spin), this book is testament to the power of radical empathy and moral courage
*Irish Times, Nonfiction Books to Look Out for in 2024*

A searing, mournful and tragic story, one that is as compelling as it is sad … The book is, at times, terribly difficult to read, but it needs to be. As a testament to Diane Foley’s personal struggle and determination it is always fascinating, as is the depiction of the awful emptiness she experienced on hearing of her son’s death. As a book, it is incredibly moving, and as a journalistic exercise it is gold standard
*Evening Standard*

‘She was (and is) full of grace, in all of that beautiful word’s senses – and it strikes me now that this was what brought the novelist Colum McCann to want to write about her. Can such a quality be adequately articulated? Can it ever be put into (non-embarrassing) words? And if so, how might those words work on an open-hearted reader? … Reading American Mother is nothing but humbling: that we should all be so decent and so wise, so generous of heart’ Book of the Week, Rachel Cooke, [heguardian.com/books/2024/mar/03/american-mother-by-colum-mccann-with-diane-foley-review-mother-james-foley]Observer
*Guardian, Book of the Week*

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