Book Overview



The Faithful Spy, a novel written by Alex Berenson, takes place in the not too distant past, between the two worlds of Atlanta, Georgia and the al Qaeda world of the Muslim Middle East.  The main character in this book, John Wells, finally comes back home to America after over 10 years living in Pakistan. In Pakistan, Wells lived, trained, and fought with al Qaeda members as a CIA operative working to gain the organization’s trust and secrets. After a decade of no outside contact, living in the mountains and dust of Pakistan, he’s sent to be stationed in Atlanta, Georgia as one of al Qaeda’s assets. Once in America the pressure starts to hit Wells from both sides. The CIA is surprised at his return and skeptical of his loyalty, but urgently demands results after a series of bombings. At the same time, Wells must keep al Qaeda’s faith and reassurance intact as he waits for the “big mission” to come, the one he has sworn to foil.

                                  While back in America, Wells has to relearn his old ways and try to blend back in as an American citizen. After months of biding his time, Wells passes his final and most crucial test, opening up the doorways into al Qaeda’s trust, or so it seems. Wells is put into a place of deadly irony when made one of al Qaeda’s pawns and martyrs, bringing to the forefront the mistrust al Qaeda always had in him. At this point he is determined to die, either spreading a plague for al Qaeda or just to die. John Wells takes neither path and like the hero he is, Wells fights his way out. In the end, it’s a race between Wells and the bomber located somewhere in New York as well as a race between Wells and the plague. Wells finds the man shooting him cleanly in the chest, but not before taking his own casualties. With the villain dead, the city and country saved, John Wells lies in his own blood.

Inside The Story

The Faithful Spy is, on the most part, a fast- paced thriller with page turning action, suspenseful lead ups, as well as physical and mental struggles. Alex Bernenson went full out in the creation of John Wells as the war torn hero of the book. I loved how fleshed out the character was, even from the start, showing the two conflicted worlds in which John belongs. Wells was born American; however, after years living as a devoted Muslim, in Pakistan there is no connection when he’s sent back to the U.S. All Wells sees is how far his country has fallen. His mind is of the Muslim people while his heart still fights for America. In the book Wells is seen as a rugged gun slinger, although underlying this persona is that he was able to stick to his heart in the final hour. The outcome would be much different if he had lost his heart in Pakistan rather than his mind. When Wells went into Pakistan, he delved into al Qaeda’s beliefs and cultures, adopting them as his own in order to complete the mission. Over his 10- year stay in the Middle East, Wells’ customs, moral beliefs, opinions, and religion were slowly gnawed upon, until his way of being was completely replaced by that of his “brethren”. While Wells’ way of thinking may have changed due to outside pressure and immersion, his strength of heart didn’t falter. If anything, Wells’ heart strengthened against his cause when he witnessed firsthand the malice of the al Qaeda and the satisfaction they gleaned from terrorist acts against U.S. soil. Throughout the entire book, John Wells is constantly fighting between his head and heart the Muslim morals and American (spirit) and in the end, the heart prevails, bringing about the theme of listening to your brain for counsel, but in the end following where your heart leads.

The Faithful Spy is a book full of pull and tug dilemmas. When returning to America, Wells comes home to a world of loss. His mother is dead, his wife and son have moved on, the CIA has turned its back, and the people around John seem out of touch, arrogant, and without bodily self-respect through his Muslim perspective. While this feeling of loss shadows his faith, it is ultimately what drives him to total selflessness to endure the hardships in order to reach al Qaeda’s core. The loss Wells endures strips away all the distractions in his world except for survival and the mission. The CIA played an interesting role in this book acting mainly as a bureaucratic mess always shifting its attitude towards John Wells. The CIA’s primary goal was to stop and prevent future al Qaeda attacks, same as Wells.  Unable to work on the same terms, Wells quickly realized that in order to do his job and duty he needed to turn his back on the agency. In both of these cases, something had to be given up in order for Wells to move forward.

The title of this book, The Faithful Spy, brings to mind thoughts of espionage and secrecy which get intertwined intricately throughout this book; nevertheless, I believe the title has much greater weight to the book than what it appears to represent in the opening chapters. Not only has Wells been faithful to his nation and his people since the start of his mission to the last tantalizing seconds, but faithful to himself as well. He kept close to what he stood for throughout the entirety of the novel’s duration. Wells refused to let go of his morals and integrity which took tremendous will and endurance. This quality is something that every human being must strive to keep intact. Without morals and integrity the whole world would be a shambles and there would be nothing to hold us together as a people.  While there may have been some intense violence and dialogue within this book, it doesn’t take away the true morals of the book. Never lose who you are no matter the pain; when in dire straits, follow your heart, and sometimes things need to be left behind in order to move on in the