A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea: A Novel

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea: A Novel

3.6 6
by Dina Nayeri
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

A magical novel about a young Iranian woman lifted from grief by her powerful imagination and love of Western culture.

Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and

Overview

A magical novel about a young Iranian woman lifted from grief by her powerful imagination and love of Western culture.

Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and rock music. So when her mother and sister disappear, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran, Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. But her parents have taught her that “all fate is written in the blood,” and that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold. Somewhere, it must be that her sister is living the Western version of this life. And where Saba’s world has all the grit and brutality of real life under the new Islamic regime, her sister’s experience gives her a freedom and control that Saba can only dream of.

Filled with a colorful cast of characters and presented in a bewitching voice that mingles the rhythms of Eastern storytelling with modern Western prose, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a tale about memory and the importance of controlling one’s own fate.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This ambitious novel set in northern Iran in the decade after the 1979 revolution contains not a teaspoon but a ton of history, imagination, and longing. Beginning with the 1981 disappearance of 11-year-old Saba Hafezi’s twin sister, Mahtab, and their mother, Khanom, Nayeri interweaves Saba’s family trauma as seen through the eyes of the women of her seaside village, along with fantasies about Mahtab’s teenage fascination with everything American, shared by her friends Reza and Ponneh. Saba loves Reza, but allows herself to be married off to old Abbas Hossein Abbas, expecting to eventually gain freedom by becoming a rich widow. The characters’ dreams are shattered, however, amid rising violence, as beautiful Ponneh is beaten for wearing red high-heels, Saba is violently attacked by two chador-clad women working for her husband and the new regime, and another woman is hanged for defying the new Islamic norms. Saba’s first tentative protests give way to more drastic decisions as the realities of postrevolution Iran and the truth about her mother and sister sink in. Nayeri crams so much into her story, especially Saba’s distracting fiction of her sister’s life in the United States, that her lyrical evocation of a vanishing Iran gets lost in an irritating narrative tangle. Agent: Kathleen Anderson, Anderson Literary. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Tehran-born Nayeri sets her first novel in a village in 1980s Iran where 11-year-old Saba lives with her parents and twin sister, Mahtab. When Mahtab and their father disappear, Saba assumes that they have gone to America, as the sisters always dreamed. The sort of embracing and embraceable culturally far-reaching fiction Riverhead does best.
Kirkus Reviews
Elegant aspirational novel of life in post-revolutionary Iran. "The whole town knows the story--the real one--though no one talks about it, because that's our way. We prefer pretty lies to ugly truths." Twin sisters Saba and Mahtab Hafezi live at the end of the universe--or, more specifically, in a tiny rice-farming village deep in the Iranian interior, having moved from Tehran to escape the eyes and hands of the mullahs and revolutionary guards. The place is no Macondo: There's precious little magic to it and a lot of dust and grime. Still, in Nayeri's (Another Jekyll, Another Hyde, 2012, etc.) richly imaginative chronicle, everyone dreams there, not least Saba, whose expectations crumble in the face of a reality for which she's not prepared, having instead devoted herself to moving to America and studying endless English word lists in anticipation ("What is abalone?" she wonders). Her mother, a small force of nature, is a fierce champion, though she's not happy that Saba is out in the sticks: "I won't have her raised in this place...wasting her days with village kids, stuck under a scarf memorizing Arabic and waiting to be arrested." Alas, a mother's protectiveness is not a big enough shield, and Saba finds herself caught up in events much larger than she can imagine. It takes a village full of sometimes odd, sometimes ordinary people to afford Saba the wherewithal to realize her dreams, which take her far, far from there. Lyrical, humane and hopeful; a welcome view of the complexities of small-town life, in this case in a place that inspires fear instead of sympathy.
From the Publisher
"Lovely."—Vanity Fair

"A feel-good family tale."—Cosmopolitan

"Ambitious . . . There’s a kaleidoscopic quality to Dina Nayeri’s prose, evoking the beat of Eastern storytelling, while its cadences remain resolutely American. . . . The novel’s message, however, is universal: we must do all we can to control our own fates."—The Daily Mail

“What a tremendous gift [Nayeri] offers us throughout the book, an opportunity to connect with the richness of Iran, while simultaneously enlarging our understanding of the human experience.”—Baltimore Times

"Set in the 1980s and early 1990s in a northern Iranian village, the novel draws out a rich and sensual old-world life. . . . Told through memory, fantasy, and conjecture, the rest of the novel is as much about storytelling––its art, lies, comforts, truths, pitfalls, and saving grace—as it is about anything else. We see a complex—albeit sad—“new Iran”: a country that is post-revolution, in the throes of war, and constantly falling short of its characters’ expectations and dreams.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

"Nayeri’s highly accomplished debut is a rich, multilayered reading experience. Structurally complex, the overriding theme is storytelling in all its forms, and the fine line between truth and lies. Each one of the large cast of characters is fully realized and sympathetic. Saba is a captivating heroine whose tragedies and triumphs will carry readers on a long but engrossing ride."—Library Journal (starred review)

“From the imprint that brought you Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner; the sort of embracing and embraceable culturally far-reaching fiction Riverhead does best.”—Booklist

"[An] elegant aspirational novel of life in post-revolutionary Iran. . . . Richly imaginative . . . Lyrical, humane, and hopeful."—Kirkus

“Charming and engrossing, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a vivid and evocative story about the places we love, the places we long for—and the places we can only imagine.”—Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles

"Pure magic: lyrical, captivating, funny, and heartbreaking. Entering the world of the intriguing Saba Hafezi and her friends in a seaside village in northern Iran, I lost my heart.” —Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation

“Captivating. It reminds us how storytelling can save our lives. A brilliant debut.”—Michelle Huneven, author of Blame

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594487040
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
01/31/2013
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Jean Kwok
Pure magic: lyrical, captivating, funny, and heartbreaking. Entering the world of the intriguing Saba Hafezi and her friends in a seaside village in northern Iran, I lost my heart. —Jean Kwok (author of Girl in Translation)
Michelle Huneven
Captivating. It reminds us how storytelling can save our lives. A brilliant debut.—Michelle Huneven (author of Blame)
Karen Thompson Walker
Charming and engrossing, Dina Nayeri has written a vivid and evocative story about the places we love, the places we long for—and the places we can only imagine.—Karen Thompson Walker (author of The Age of Miracles)
From the Publisher
"Lovely."—Vanity Fair

"A feel-good family tale."—Cosmopolitan

"Ambitious . . . There’s a kaleidoscopic quality to Dina Nayeri’s prose, evoking the beat of Eastern storytelling, while its cadences remain resolutely American. . . . The novel’s message, however, is universal: we must do all we can to control our own fates."—The Daily Mail

“What a tremendous gift [Nayeri] offers us throughout the book, an opportunity to connect with the richness of Iran, while simultaneously enlarging our understanding of the human experience.”—Baltimore Times

"Nayeri’s highly accomplished debut is a rich, multilayered reading experience. Structurally complex, the overriding theme is storytelling in all its forms, and the fine line between truth and lies. Each one of the large cast of characters is fully realized and sympathetic. Saba is a captivating heroine whose tragedies and triumphs will carry readers on a long but engrossing ride."—Library Journal (starred review)

“From the imprint that brought you Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner; the sort of embracing and embraceable culturally far-reaching fiction Riverhead does best.”—Booklist

"[An] elegant aspirational novel of life in post-revolutionary Iran. . . . Richly imaginative . . . Lyrical, humane, and hopeful."—Kirkus

“Charming and engrossing, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a vivid and evocative story about the places we love, the places we long for—and the places we can only imagine.”—Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles

"Pure magic: lyrical, captivating, funny, and heartbreaking. Entering the world of the intriguing Saba Hafezi and her friends in a seaside village in northern Iran, I lost my heart.” —Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation

“Captivating. It reminds us how storytelling can save our lives. A brilliant debut.”—Michelle Huneven, author of Blame

Meet the Author

Dina Nayeri was born in Tehran during the revolution and immigrated to Oklahoma at ten years old. She has a BA from Princeton and a Master of Education and MBA from Harvard. She is a Truman Capote Fellow and a Teaching Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea: A Novel 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I disliked this book so much I couldn't finish it. Tedius, repetitive, and boring with mostly unlikeable characters. Not as much about Iranian life as about one girl/woman's obsession and delusion about her lost/missing mother & sister. Author did not explore psychological depth of the characters so ultimately missed the chance for a really interesting book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An_Arkansas_Reader More than 1 year ago
In many books, what is written on the book jacket or the online description gives away what happens in the first few chapters. In a Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, that description makes up the entirety of its plot. Not an action driven novel, this is primarily a story of what it feels like to be a woman in Iran after the Revolution. Though the writing is beautiful and evocative, the story itself seems to drag. I found the tone of the book and its main characters to be largely self-pitying. I might be whiney too in their circumstances, but I like to have a worthy protagonist to root for when I read, like I did in The Taliban Cricket Club or All Woman and Springtime. I will recommend this novel to friends for its beautiful writing and sense of atmosphere, but it won’t be at the top of my list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lovely and poetic. This tale of Iran and its treatment of women, reminds each of us just how fragile life and human rights are. Great discussion book for a book club.
k-puff More than 1 year ago
This book held my intrest. I like most books by Indian authors,they usually weave a good tale and this book does just that. I think this book would make a good book club discussion group as there many different aspects to discuss.