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Then We Were One
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Wednesday August 17, 2011 in Books

Then We Were One
Fragments of Two Lives

By Fred A. Reed

Southern California in the late 1950s has the look and feel of a midsummer morning—bright and still. For two young brothers, the wide world is full of promise. Together they set out to explore it as one, ever alert to the sound of their mother’s whistle calling them home. But by late afternoon, dark clouds gather on the horizon and the storm soon breaks.

That storm is the war in Vietnam, and its fury sweeps away all the noble lies of the social conservatism their parents endorsed.

Then, in a bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard, the eldest son happens upon a novel by Kazantzakis that entices him to Greece. There, he learns the language, and in that ancient land that has seen it all, heard it all and done it all, he encounters militant Cretan students and the woman who will become his life partner in exile.

But for the younger brother there will be no escape. Trapped by failed marriages, smothered by parental guidance and an education system exposed as the state’s recruiting agent, he is dispatched to Vietnam. Fifteen years later he lies buried on a lonely hillside in New Zealand, dead of the wounds he sustained in that war.

Shocked by the death of his younger brother, Fred Reed sets out on a series of journeys of discovery and understanding. By way of Iran in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution; the Anatolian highlands of the mystic Bediuzzaman Said Nursi; in pursuit of ancient and modern iconoclasts in Syria and Lebanon; he comes under the spell of Islam. In its embrace he finds a renewed brotherhood; in its discipline, liberation.

Then We Were One challenges us with its conclusion that indictment, absolution and redemption, though we must seek them, are not ours to ultimately possess.

ISBN 13: 9780889226678 | ISBN 10: 889226679
5.5 W x 8.5 H inches | 304 pages
$19.95 CAN / $19.95 US
Rights: World
Backlist | Non-Fiction | Bisac: HIS027100


“Through a fragmented yet largely chronologically arranged narrative, intertwined with reminiscences of the life of his brother with whom Reed was obviously very close, readers are treated to a story of massive geographical and ideological shifts – from white, middle-class Catholic Pasadena – through tumultuous involvement in dodging the American draft and adherence to secular Marxism while living in Greece and Canada, and visiting Iran, Turkey and Syria – finally to Montreal and conversion to Islam influenced by the Nur movement founded by the Turkish sage Bediüzzaman Said Nursi. If a central thread is to be distinguished in this narrative, it is that of rebellious iconoclasm: the confrontation and smashing of various idols, culminating in surrender to ‘the centrality of mercy that Islam ascribes again and again to God’ (286). … the book succeeds in its stated goal of telling the tale of the survivor.” – Franz Volker Greifenhagen, Equinox Online: Religious Studies and Theology

About the Contributors

Fred A. Reed

International journalist and award-winning literary translator Fred A. Reed is also a respected specialist on politics and religion in the Middle East. Reed is a three-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for translation.

Then We Were One cover
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Copyright Talonbooks 1963-2018



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