She is an American mother. It is not a story that often gets told. Hers is a small sky though it contains so much rain. The story sometimes forgets her. She is often invisible. She dissolves at the edge of someone else’s words. But she has decided, quite against the grain, that the world is available to her too. She has her place in it. She has something to say. She doesn’t need to retreat. She is not a person to quiver and fade. She has learned to speak out, not loud and shrill, not thumping and masculine, but with politeness, respect, resolve.

Page 209

In a nutshell


Almost ten years ago, American journalist James Foley was murdered by ISIS in a public beheading that was broadcast around the world. In American Mother, Colum McCann takes us into the world and mind of his mother Diane and her extraordinary journey of fighting for her son’s return and eventually fighting for others, to keep his memory alive.

Book Club Notes


When I read the back jacket of this book, I felt shivers along my arms. I remember when James Foley was kidnapped and how his murder was on every news outlet sending shockwaves across the world. You can’t remember that and not want to read this book. 

In American Mother, Diane Foley graciously allows us into her mind as she shares the story of Jim, as his loved ones called him. She lets us into his life, his upbringing, his struggles, his purpose, and what really happened on the other side of the headlines.

Simply put, it’s beautifully written, interesting, thought provoking and educational. 

It’s quite remarkable how one event in a world often filled with tragedy can make a huge impact, when others do not. Is it a shock factor? Does humanity become desensitised? Does it stop mattering if it isn’t one of you or happening on your doorstep?

This book is important because this story isn’t just about a mother’s loss and memorialising her son. It’s a story of human grace and courage. It’s a story about taking the worst thing that can happen to you, to anyone, and instead of letting it bleed you dry and rot your core, you turn it into light and make good come from it. You put your personal trauma, loss and pain aside and consider others. You see humanity as a whole and don’t classify who gets to fit into the worthy. You strive to make the world a better place, so that maybe one day, no other mother, father, daughter, son, brother, sister, friend ever has to experience what it was like for you.

Read If


You are familiar with the James Foley story, interested in journalism, the politics surrounding hostage taking and/or want to see what good, grace, light and hope look like.

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Storyline – 10 /10
Writing – 10/10
Likeability – 10/10
Purpose – 10/10
Shareability – 10/10
10.0Overall Score
A note on our book ratings

Storyline: How good is the storyline? Is it believable and complex or does it make you shake your head in its ridiculousness?

Writing: How well written is the book? Do you find yourself wowed by the writing or unimpressed?

Likeability: Are the characters likeable, relatable, imparting something of value?

Purpose: Is there a clear purpose to the story being shared or is it better suited as a personal project for a family keepsake?

Shareability: How likely are you to share the book?

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