Outcast: How Osama bin Laden’s family grew rich, powerful and divided

Milton Viorst in The Washington Post:

Osama_2 THE BIN LADENS: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll.

Change the names and locations, and Steve Coll’s marvelous book about the bin Laden family would begin like a familiar American saga. An illiterate youth arrives in a land of opportunity from his impoverished homeland and, by dint of ambition, talent and hard work, becomes immensely rich and powerful. He collects properties, airplanes, luxury cars and women — tastes he passes on to his sons. He earns a niche in the pantheon of great builders of his adopted country.

The youth is Mohamed bin Laden, justly venerated in Saudi Arabia. But collective memory plays funny tricks, and in the West he will be permanently remembered as the father of Osama. The bin Ladens, though their Horatio Alger story overlaps Western experience, emerge as unmistakably Middle Eastern — to the point of being torn asunder by today’s religious struggles. Coll, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former Washington Post managing editor, leaves the psychology to his readers. He prefers writing on economics and politics, leavening them with anecdotes and gossip; the result is a fascinating panorama of a great family, presented within the context of the 9/11 drama.

More here.