American Mother

By Colum McCann with Diane Foley

American Mother is the heart-rending story of a mother who, in the course of confronting her son’s killer, gets to the elemental heart of violence and forgiveness. Diane Foley is the mother of Jim, a freelance journalist captured and beheaded by ISIS in 2014, an image which became one of the most iconic of the 21st century.

Seven years later, Diane gets the chance to spend three days with the murderer of her son in a Virginia courthouse, inspiring her to tell her life story. What unfolds is one of the most compelling narratives in recent literary history, channelled into searing reality by National Book Award-winner Colum McCann, who brings us on a journey of strength, resilience and radical empathy.

In the room, the clocks tick, unseen.

It has been a day of shadows and redirection, revelation and lies. Diane gets the vague sense that Kotey — with his confidence and his silence — might think himself to be the smartest person in the room. He is intelligent yes, but it’s an intelligence that needs to wear a disguise. And besides, the smartest person in the room is the one who knows she, or he, is never the smartest at all: herein lies the contradiction. She wonders now if he has just said exactly the things she wanted to hear? She knows herself to be naïve at times: she admits this to herself. Yes, it is true, she has often been far too open to people in the past. She has been stung. Government officials who have deceived her. Pretenders from the FBI. Misdirection from the State Department and White House. Politicians. Negotiators. Informers. Conmen. And, perhaps now, Kotey. But she also knows that the naivety is necessary to cultivate something deeper. She wants to remain open to the world. Compassion, Lord. And mercy. And patience.

There will be one more session tomorrow. Perhaps they will achieve something more than this intimate stand-off . But then again, perhaps nothing.

She pulls back her chair and thanks him. It is dangerous, she knows, to thank him, her son’s murderer. But she must do it anyway. Perhaps it’s only politeness. Perhaps it’s something more.

“In another life,” she says, “you and Jim might have been friends.”

The pre-sale costs associated with the purchase of American Mother, signed by co-author Diane Foley, include book price of $24.99 and a tax-deductible donation of $50.01 to the Foley Foundation. Shipping will begin on or after March 11th, 2024.

Proceeds from the sale of American Mother will benefit the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, advocating for the freedom of all Americans held hostage abroad and promoting the safety of journalists worldwide.

Diane Foley

Diane Foley founded the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation to advocate for freedom for innocent Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad and for journalist safety. Foley has raised awareness about international hostage taking through her government advocacy, the documentary, Jim: the James Foley Story, and opinion pieces in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, Dr. John W. Foley, and is the mother of four other children and seven grandchildren.

Colum McCann born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, has won multiple awards and honors for his seven novels and three collections of short stories. Apeirogon, his most recent novel, published in 2020, became an international best-seller on four continents. McCann serves as President and co-founder of Narrative 4, a non-profit storytelling organization which helps build empathy in young people, encouraging them to improve their communities.

Praise for American Mother

“American Mother is a book that will shake your soul out. A thriller, a memoir, a mystery, a portrait of forgiveness, and a literary song of grace, Colum McCann and Diane Foley have filled the empty chair for us all. One of the most extraordinarily well-braided stories that I have read in years.”

Sting, Composer, singer-songwriter, actor, author, and activist

“Having lived through every mother’s worst nightmare and somehow survived, Diane Foley leads with her heart in her fierce advocacy for Americans captured abroad. Now, in this book, she helps us understand how that is possible by inviting us to walk with her through some of the hardest moments of her life, courageously facing the unthinkable, sharing a candor that takes your breath away, and a deep hope that generations to come will never have to face what she did.”

Judy Woodruff, Senior correspondent and former anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour

“This is an extraordinary story of grace, forgiveness, and moral courage. Bookended by Diane Foley’s meetings with her son’s killer, American Mother plunges us into the heart of darkness and then, somehow, on the far end, discovers unexpected light and hope. Diane Foley’s voice, as captured by Colum McCann, is one of the most compelling in recent literary memory. An honest, searing, heartbreaking book.”

Patrick Radden Keefe, American writer and investigative journalist