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A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl    by Mariane Pearl & Sarah Crichton order for
Mighty Heart
by Mariane Pearl
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Who wasn't touched by the story of Daniel Pearl, an obviously decent, caring man brutally killed by rabid zealots? We expect journalists, like the envoys of earlier times in history, to be sacrosanct, and the kidnapping and deliberate murder of this Wall Street reporter in early 2002 seemed like a nauseating aftershock to the events of 9/11. His wife was pregnant at the time with their first child. Now Mariane Pearl tells the story of A Mighty Heart, that of her husband Danny Pearl. It's intelligent, articulate, poignant, heartbreaking.

Reading this account, we have a sense that Mariane Pearl is someone we can respect and like. She portrays her Danny as the same kind of person, but his personality shines most clearly through his sense of humor. They come across as idealistic young people, in love with each other and awaiting a child, passionate about their work, and not looking for danger, though a degree of risk is intrinsic to what they do. Then comes disaster. In its aftermath, Mariane Pearl shares with us what she knew, wondered, and agonzied over, through weeks of uncertainty during which 'Hope is a remarkable muscle.'

She shows us many individuals, from Daniel's 'avant-garde' friend and colleague, Indian born Muslim Asra, to the supportive Pakistani 'Captain', Danny's Wall Street Journal editors, and US security personnel, who shared in the search for her husband and the agonizing wait for news. Mariane discovers what it's like to be 'on the wrong side of the camera'. There's the irony of a detailed 1999 memo that Daniel Pearl addressed to his bosses with concerns for Wall Street reporters' safety. The role of the local 'fixer' in facilitating journalists' contacts is pivotal to events and fascinating, as is the discussion of tracking of email in a third world country.

Resources, from investigations by intelligence services to Buddhist mantras and pleas from famous Muslims, are marshalled all around the world, but to no avail. There are insights into the political turmoil that is Pakistan, a comparison of its medrassas (Muslim theological colleges) to 'brainwashing factories', and questions about the role of the Pakistani Intelligence (ISI). There is the issue of how the terrorists learned that Danny Pearl was Jewish. The author postulates that 'For those who promote hatred' journalists 'are the most hateable of all' for revealing truths and creating links between peoples.

As the book ends, Mariane Pearl has given birth to Danny's son Adam and takes first steps in a 'battle to defeat the absolute darkness that breeds terrorists'. Any reader of A Mighty Heart will wish her well, and will see more clearly the importance of what the Danny's of the world all do.

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