“Homeland Elegies,” by Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown and Company)
An elegy is a mournful poem expressing regret for something lost. Ayad Akhtar’s brilliant new novel, “Homeland Elegies,” mourns an America that has lost its way in the half century since it welcomed his parents’ generation of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan.
It’s a work of autofiction narrated by a man named Ayad Akhtar who is best known, like the real Akhtar, for writing a hit Broadway play in which the lead character, a Pakistani American lawyer, expresses some sympathy for the terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center.
At various points of the book, you may be tempted to go online to see if they’re really true. But as you get swept up in the sprawling story, you begin to realize that the Akhtar of the book is a blend of many voices and characters, real and imagined, from Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg to Alexander Portnoy, who struggled