Friday, April 3, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: The Worst Chapter. No, Really.

Last time, Brianna went to Iraq to entertain the troops in a camouflage dress, but really she wanted she sneak off and visit her extended family who wants to kill her. She visited the hospital where she was born and hunted for clues, but then there was a bomb threat and she had to leave, despite running into a nurse who she Just Knows had something to do with her parents.

We start off on a particularly weird note.
The military commanders had given her special permission to go to Fallujah to visit the Murat family. 

Sonya is a music industry lawyer in the U.S., and even she was able to dig up the fact that the very rich Murat family was putting a price on the heads of Christians. So it doesn't seem a particularly safe place for a very vocally Christian pop star from the U.S. to be visiting. But I guess the military people are just like, "Why, yes, Brianna, you are rich and beautiful and you sing like an angel and wear seven different dresses at your concerts, so you can totally walk into the living room of what is apparently the Iraqi mafia."
The Iraqi city was still in deep turmoil, so the star had a company of hard-core troops around her, in addition to her four personal bodyguards.
And, ya know, the people she wants to visit are trying to kill off Christians. That's another good reason to send her with the whole army.

Incidentally, if the area's in such deep turmoil, wouldn't it be a good idea to not spend your troops' time on pointless escort missions for American pop stars? It seems like such a waste of time and effort.

They are met at the Murat compound by a guard who asks them what is going on. Then this exchange happened, and not even a full page into the chapter, I lost it and ranted about it to Jacob for like five minutes because THIS MAKES NO FREAKING SENSE.
The guard grunted, “What for?” 
“It’s just a friendly visit. Brianna Bays, an entertainer from the United States, would like to visit with him.” 
“Why?” The solemn guard moved his gun in front of him, a silent reminder to the visitors that he was in charge. 
“She did not tell me.”

They just waltz up to the doors, say, "There's an American pop star here who wants to see you. Nobody knows why," and this makes sense to Rothdiener?

This makes sense to anyone?!?!

Brianna managed to convince the military commanders to send AN ENTIRE COMPANY of troops complete with THREE HELICOPTERS to help her visit ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS FAMILIES IN IRAQ without giving ANY REASON FOR DOING SO.

This is the most completely, wildly inept military ever. The only alternative option is that Brianna is a witch and has cast a literal spell over everybody in the military that makes them do incredibly stupid things without having to explain herself at all.

I can't... I can't even comprehend this. It is one of the dumbest things I've ever read. This is right up there with "Dr. Leontiou is sneaking around the hospital dressed as an old lady," as far as I'm concerned.

Well, Mr. Murat himself gets on the intercom and then says Brianna can come inside, but the rest of the people there for her protecting cannot, which is too bad because I was looking forward to seeing how those helicopters were eventually going to get inside the house. The colonel is like, "Nope." They haggle down to Brianna's vehicle being allowed inside the compound, but no others.
“I’ll be all right. I’m not afraid of them.” Brianna’s reply was straight to the point, decisive. 
“I know you’re not, but you should be. You don’t know these people— they can’t be trusted.” The colonel cautioned.
"Although obviously that doesn't mean we shouldn't show up at their doorstep unannounced with an unexplained visit from a pop star they probably want to kill. That's just how we military folks do it."

So Brianna's vehicle goes on through. Lots of mumbo-jumbo follows about how many guards there are. Eventually they arrive at the door. Brianna has her four bodyguards with her. Conrad tries to convince her not to go through with this because it is a really terrible plan, but she's just like:
“I have been looking forward to this day for years. I want to meet my relatives. In some ways I am excited, in other ways very sad.”
So eventually he just gives up.

Mr. Murat comes to the door and seems to be pleasant with her. He invites her in for tea, but tells her her bodyguards need to stay outside. She insists Conrad goes with her. Mr. Murat agrees, but only if he leaves his gun outside. So now she's waltzing into the house of people who want to kill her with one unarmed bodyguard. Super smart.

(Incidentally, they refer to him as "Emir Murat" a couple times, which I figured was a title since he's clearly rich and powerful, so quite possibly someone with nobility or leadership under his belt. But then they stopped calling him Mr. Murat and started calling him "Emir" -- like "Emir did not feel threatened by this woman," and at that point I wonder if it's a name instead? Because it can be a name as well... I don't know. He may be an Emir, he may just be named Emir. Either way, I'll follow suit and call him Emir.)

Brianna gets sneaky and hides the fact that she speaks Arabic. I'm a little surprised she still speaks it well, as she was very young when she left and there's zero indication that she'd been speaking it at all since then. She's most likely gone without hearing or speaking it for nearly 20 years, and she's probably encountering a lot of new vocabulary that she barely heard, let alone learned, in an overcrowded orphanage full of children.
Brianna consciously sat in a low-backed chair facing the doorway, wanting to be aware of everyone’s actions. Through the years, Conrad had taught her how to defend herself, and how to be alert in a crisis.
Unfortunately, they left for Iraq right before his next lesson for her, "Why You Shouldn't Visit People's Homes If You Know They Want to Kill You." Unfortunate timing, there.

We also reveal that Conrad's not totally defenseless. He's got pistols hidden in his sleeves! Which I guess just nobody bothered to check.

They small talk for awhile, and Brianna casually mentions that she looks like her mother. Emir's wife, Miridia, gets really alert at this. Emir and Brianna chat more about her mother, and, uh, then this happens:
“I believe her brothers killed her... but it was called an accident.” She looked scornfully at both of her uncles. 
Emir seemed to have no idea where the conversation was headed. 
“Her brothers? Why would they kill her?” Emir slanted his head. Suddenly, he was interested... very interested. 
“It’s funny you should ask... why don’t you tell me? I come from a country that respects life. We respect people’s opinions, and accept them regardless of what color or nationality they are, or what religion they embrace.” She emphasized religion, and her voice began to escalate.
Look, I understand that she's getting emotional -- this is why she probably shouldn't be doing this in the first place -- but if she HAS to confront them, it's a TERRIBLE idea to start throwing around "My country is better than yours" statements at this point. Like, Conrad should be signaling to her right now, "Stop talking."

She reveals that her mother was killed because she was a Muslim who converted to Christianity. Conrad takes this opportunity to go stand behind the guards with his pistols drawn because A) they're terrible guards, and B) apparently the situation wasn't tense enough as it is.

Miridia breaks down though and starts crying. Brianna doesn't back down:
Brianna’s heart beat faster, and her voice grew louder with each word. “You did not, would not, accept Mira, your own daughter.” She reminded herself to exhale.
She picked a terrible time and place to have a confrontation. Emir's reaction, awesomely, is to calmly complain that she's upset his wife.

Conrad then, uh, subdues all the guards with his pistols, and there is basically no way the Murats can see this as anything but an attack now. If Conrad and Brianna don't die, there's going to be some serious political repercussions for this. You see, U.S. military according to Rothdiener, THIS RIGHT HERE is why you don't just let American pop stars visit dangerous high-ranking Muslim families whenever they want to.

Brianna exposes who she is and Miridia cries a bunch more. What follows is a Morgan Hamilton-level cringe-worthy scene, and I'm not going to share the whole thing, but here are the two juiciest tidbits.
“What kind of a god tells someone to take a life because of his or her beliefs... not a loving God.” Brianna challenged her uncle’s beliefs. 
. . . 
“Get out of my house!” Emir thundered, pointing to the door.
“Get out of your house... your house? I’m your granddaughter. Look at me,” she yelled in Arabic, walking up to him, and standing face-to-face. “We have understood everything you’ve said since we walked into this house.”
Miridia, apparently, had no idea that her sons had killed Brianna's mother. Brianna reveals that she was the infant they were supposed to kill, and this shocks Emir, because... I guess he thought his daughter had another baby hidden somewhere? She'd already revealed she was Mira's daughter, so I don't know what he was thinking that meant.

Her uncles try to make things right by explaining they've been trying to kill her ever since they failed the first time, but Emir is not pleased.
“What do you want from me?” The grandfather’s voice was calmer. 
“Want from you... what does your devil granddaughter want from you?” She walked over to him and slapped his face full force, almost knocking him off his feet. 
He raised his hand to strike her, but stopped. 
“Try it, just try it. I would love to put you down right where you stand. I have a black belt in Karate and could kill you in one blow,” Brianna threatened, meaning every word.

I don't even know what to do with this.

I have no idea what to do with this.

I do NOT think that if Brianna told the military, "Oh, I'm going to this rich murderous man's house to mock their country and their religion, hold them at gunpoint, slap the leader in the face and threaten to attack him with karate," they'd have provided anything they had... although apparently Conrad's totally on board with this.

Incidentally, when did she get a black belt in karate?! That takes time that she does NOT have. Did she take a bunch of classes when she lived with Ethan and then retest as an adult? Did she suddenly start taking classes when she got rich four years ago and zoomed through the process because I guess she just had all this time now in between writing and recording songs and entertaining the troops and doing concerts in America and apparently doing press conferences before every concert for some reason and doing all the volunteer work that she's become super known for? Is she just making this up and she has no idea how to do karate at all?

(When I got to this section, I yelled out loud to Jacob, "I don't even have TIME to address all the things that are wrong with this chapter!")

Emir is apparently shamed by this whole display instead of enraged -- who knew that sneering at someone's religion actually worked? -- and confesses that, yeah, he killed her mother and tried to kill her and her father, but he has no idea where her father is now. Brianna fights with him for awhile again about how he shouldn't have tried to kill anyone. Miridia, apparently, has had enough though:
She started to walk away, but suddenly stopped and spun around, then walked back to her husband. With all her pent-up anger unleashed, she slapped him across the face with such force that he fell backwards.

Given what we've seen of Emir, I DO NOT anticipate that to go well. For one thing, he's been pretty stern and angry at her for being upset about this whole thing. For another, if he believes that Islam demands you to kill your daughter if she marries outside the faith, I doubt it has a high tolerance for wives slapping their husbands.

If something happens to Miridia -- like if something bad happens to her -- I hope Brianna realizes that part she played in this.

Emir is not pleased about his wife hitting him, and he goes to hit her back, but Brianna grabs him and twists his arm behind his back.
An Iraqi guard heard the commotion and ran into the room with his gun raised.  
Conrad sliced his right arm across the man’s neck knocking him out cold.
Is that... is that a thing you can do? Like in my mind he's slitting his throat without a knife, and I don't feel like that should knock anyone out. He's not even punching him in the neck, which I know can take someone out, he's... "slicing his right arm across the man's neck." And I just can't figure out what that is.

Anyway, after Conrad knocks out the only armed guard, who was apparently just chilling outside while all this was happening, he then threatens everyone else with his guns again. Still such a great plan.

Brianna thinks about how much she wants to keep hurting Emir, but eventually she lets him go and just demands her father's name. Her uncle says they never knew his name and he makes a comment about the Americans attacking their country, and he's clearly pretty bitter about it.
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about the Americans... you have to worry about me. Remember, I’m part Arab.” Brianna looked directly into her grandfather’s eyes. “I was born here, which gives me dual citizenship. It also gives me part of everything you own.” She chuckled, a mocking laugh.
Brianna is just... the worst in this whole chapter. Also, she might not get part of everything he owns, so I wouldn't laugh mockingly just yet. Muslim inheritance law is incredibly complicated, so I might be getting some of this wrong, but here's what I've found: It looks like Iraq is currently operating under mostly Shi'ite inheritance law, but her family is Sunni, so I don't know how that affects it. In Sunni tradition, it looks like she wouldn't get anything even if her mother hadn't broken with her family by marrying outside of her faith.

Either way, Brianna's either been studying up on Iraqi inheritance law or she just pulled all this out of her butt. I suspect the second. Either way, she's being kind of terrible about it.
“The truth is I don’t want anything you have. Not one thing... you make me sick... all of you!” She spun around and slapped her grandfather again.
I mean, she's already hit him, threatened to shoot him, and threatened to karate chop him to death. Another slap can't make things TOO much worse.
Brianna turned to walk out the door.  
Conrad quickly rendered Emir’s two guards unconscious with a swift blow to the neck.
Yup, just leave a trail of unconscious bodies, best way to go about this whole thing.

Conrad then tells Brianna's uncles that if anything ever happens to Brianna, he'll hunt down and kill all of them.
He stuck one of his pistols forcefully in Odel’s nose.
Well, this just makes me giggle.
Conrad pushed Odel with such force that he went flying over the couch, landing at the feet of his father.
But this is awful. These are the WORST people. They waltzed into their home just to beat them up and yell at them. I mean, it's not a sane response, but it's also not a Christian response. This is, I think, supposed to feel like a satisfying "Yay, the bad guys are getting their comeuppance!" chapter but it mostly makes me hate Brianna and Conrad a lot.

Miridia steps back out and makes this speech:
“You have bossed me around long enough, and I am tired of you calling me ‘Woman.’ My name is Miridia. I am the mother of Mira... and the proud grandmother of Brianna Bays. You can talk to my lawyer.”
So, uh, that's nice, I guess. Although given the murderous nature of her family, again, I just don't think this will go well.

Conrad tells Brianna they need to go, but takes one more opportunity to be terrible and vengeful and violent and stupid:
Without warning, Conrad grabbed Adel and shoved him against the wall. “His name, what was his name?” . . .  
“Barrett! We never knew if that was his first or last name. The only thing we know is that he is dead.” . . .  
Conrad’s temper flared. With full force, he stuck Adel in the head with the palm of his hand, knocking his head against the wall. Unconscious, the brother fell to the floor in a heap.
They run out of the house, Conrad knocking guards out left and right. When they get to the vehicle, Bruno knocks out the outside guards, and they all run away. Conrad thinks about how strong and determined Brianna is. Yeah, I guess that's one word for it.

And we finally end this awful, awful, awful chapter. I feel such a sense of accomplishment at having gotten through it. Between the obnoxious, weirdly childish behavior in the face of a much more serious wrong, and the sheer stupidity and implausibility of every moment of it, this was... a struggle. But we're 74% of the way through the book and only have 83 pages left to go.


  1. I have questions. I mean, I have a lot of questions, but these are the more pressing ones...

    Firstly: He hid his guns in his sleeves. Has... has the author actually paused to consider the logistics of this? What is Conrad *wearing*? Is it this?

    Secondly: Is the "I have a black belt in karate and I can kill you with my bare hands" supposed to sound like an internet tough guy sounding off, or do I just spend too long on Reddit? e.g.

  2. Yeah... I was wondering about the placement of Conrad's pistols-in-sleeves too, but I never got around to saying much about it because there were SO MANY wrongs things to talk about. I think if he IS wearing sleeves large enough to conceal pistols, I have even less of an idea why the guards didn't search those obviously large-enough-to-hide-weapons sleeves and refuse to let him come inside until he got rid of them.

    And, yeah, Brianna sounds sadly reminiscent of that copypasta... And more than a little reminiscent of Morgan Hamilton's tough guy rants as well. Guess Rothdiener liked this side of Brianna the most and decided to make an entire character like she is here in his next book...