In Harriet Lane’s debut novel Alys, Always, the reader is introduced to the narrator Frances Thorpe—a thirty something copy editor for a failing London magazine who stumbles on a car accident one night when returning home from visiting her parents. Frances’s actions in the beginning of the novel mimic those of an innocent do-gooder—a person who stops at the sight of an accident, and discovers a victim hidden by the darkness, buried beneath the crushed metal of her vehicle. Frances attempts to comfort the victim, who later introduces herself as Alys, while waiting on the ambulance to arrive. Frances is unaware of Alys’s injuries, and sits with her during her final moments of life—unable to do anything to save her. After Alys dies, Frances returns to her home, haunted by the woman’s death. Once home she takes stock of her surroundings and comments, “You’re not so badly off, are you?” convincing herself that her basic needs have been fulfilled.
If asked about the source of the problems in the Middle East, the average American undoubtedly would answer "Islam." At least that is according to Gregory Harms in his new book It’s Not About Religion. He writes, “It has become a virtual reflex to sum up the different conflicts in the region as being a throwback to biblical times.” An independent scholar focusing on US/Middle East relations, Harms sets out to systematically portray what he sites as the true sources of conflict in the Middle East and the role of the West, especially the United States. It’s Not About Religion is the story of a calculating Western government, one that has tried to manipulate the region and in the process caused many of its problems. The volume is laid out in a straightforward manner offering a five-part look at Middle Eastern politics: how Muslims have been presented to Americans historically, Western Europe’s policies in the Middle East, U.S. involvement in the region, the role of religion in the Middle East, and finally the imperialist view that governed America’s actions in the region.