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Pomegranate Soup

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"Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of "crazed sheep and dizzying roads," they might finally find a home." "From the kitchen of an old pastry shop on Main Mall, the sisters set about creating a Persian oasis. Sensuous wafts of cardamom,
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Overview

"Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of "crazed sheep and dizzying roads," they might finally find a home." "From the kitchen of an old pastry shop on Main Mall, the sisters set about creating a Persian oasis. Sensuous wafts of cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron float through the streets - an exotic aroma that announces the opening of the Babylon Cafe, and a shock to a town that generally subsists on boiled cabbage and Guinness served at the local tavern. And it is an affront to the senses of Ballinacroagh's uncrowned king, Thomas McGuire. After trying (and failing) for years to buy the old pastry shop, Thomas is enraged to find it occupied - and by foreigners, no less." But the mysterious, spicy fragrances work their magic on the townsfolk, and soon business is booming. Marjan is thrilled with the demand for her red lentil soup, abgusht stew, and rosewater baklava - and with the transformation in her sisters. Young Layla finds first love, and even tense, haunted Bahar seems to be less nervous. And in the stand-up-comedian-turned-priest Father Fegal Mahoney, the gentle, lonely widow Estelle Delmonico, and the headstrong hairdresser Fiona Athey, the sisters find a merry band of supporters against the close-minded opposition of less welcoming villagers stuck in their ways. But the idyll is soon broken when the past rushes back to threaten the Aminpours once more, and the lives they left behind in revolution-era Iran bleed into the present.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Recalling James Joyce's Dubliners, this first novel by Mehran (who was born in Iran but now lives in Ireland) centers on the inhabitants of a small Irish town. When three Iranian sisters move into the former bake shop and open a Middle Eastern caf , turmoil erupts. The quirky and wonderfully fleshed-out characters who make up the populace of Ballinacroagh align with either the sisters and their exotic delicacies or the town bully, Thomas McGuire, who attempts to put them out of business. From the young and lovely Layla to resident gossip Dervla Quigley, these characters come to life; they're as uniquely simple or as deeply complex as the dishes that eldest sister Marjan concocts-recipes included! Personal demons and questioned loyalties play out like a movie on the page (think Joanne Harris's Chocolat), making the reader feel like an eyewitness to all the events. A satisfying summer read or book club pick; highly recommended.
Chicago Tribune
Books Best Read With a Helping of Fairy Dust: Three sisters who have fled their native Iran set up a Persian cafe in their new home, the tiny town of Ballinacroagh, Ireland. After initial suspicion, the townsfolk learn to love the shop with its spicy fragrances and exotic foods. Marsha Mehran describes the food in mouthwatering detail--with a dash of magic realism.
Mark Knoblauch
To give the reader a better appreciation for the pivotal role of food in the novel, Mehran includes recipes for some Iranian specialties: stuffed grape leaves, elephant ear pastries, and the title’s pomegranate soup. Stark contrasts between the sisters’ lives in Iran and Ireland and between the Irish and Persian cultures energize Mehran’s tale.
Booklist
Publishers Weekly
Beautiful strangers bring exotic recipes to town in Mehran's foodie-lit debut. The Irish hamlet of Ballinacroagh is the unlikely new home for three Iranian sisters and their new Babylon Cafe. Twenty-seven-year-old Marjan, the most skilled in the kitchen; Bahar, the tentative middle sister; and Layla, the charming teenager, fled the Iranian revolution and, after some years in London, have arrived determined to succeed. Initially wary natives soon fall under the spell of the cafe's cardamom- and rosewater-scented wonders, with kindly Estelle Delmonico (the stereotyped Italian widow who formerly owned the storefront) and friendly Father Mahoney leading the pack. But town bully Thomas McGuire, who loathes "feckin' foreigners," and gossip Dervla Quigley, who thinks "they're all sluts," will do anything to drive the sisters away. As Marjan cements alliances through her recipes and Layla falls in love with McGuire's son, Bahar continues to be troubled by the violence in her past. Can the provincial Irish welcome the "foreigners"? Will the sisters triumph? But of course! Mehran's mauve prose gets especially purple sometimes (Layla feels love "like the ecstatic cries of a pomegranate as it realized the knife's thrust"), but fans of Chocolat and other cooking-overcomes-cultural-differences stories will savor the tale, not to mention the 13 recipes, including one for pomegranate soup. Agent, Adam Chromy. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Recalling James Joyce's Dubliners, this first novel by Mehran (who was born in Iran but now lives in Ireland) centers on the inhabitants of a small Irish town. When three Iranian sisters move into the former bake shop and open a Middle Eastern caf , turmoil erupts. The quirky and wonderfully fleshed-out characters who make up the populace of Ballinacroagh align with either the sisters and their exotic delicacies or the town bully, Thomas McGuire, who attempts to put them out of business. From the young and lovely Layla to resident gossip Dervla Quigley, these characters come to life; they're as uniquely simple or as deeply complex as the dishes that eldest sister Marjan concocts-recipes included! Personal demons and questioned loyalties play out like a movie on the page (think Joanne Harris's Chocolat), making the reader feel like an eyewitness to all the events. A satisfying summer read or book club pick; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/05.]-Leann Restaino, Jameson Health Syst. Lib., New Castle, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Three Iranian sisters open a restaurant in rural Ireland-in a debut that uses recipes in the heart- and stomach-warming (or -churning, depending on one's taste for the genre) tradition of Like Water for Chocolate. Marjan, Bahar and Layla Aminpour escaped from Iran to arrive in England the day the Shah was deposed, seven years before the story begins. Now 27, Marjan brings 24-year-old Bahar, who has trained and worked in London as a nurse, and 15-year-old Layla to Ballinacroagh, in County Mayo, to open the Babylon Cafe. Each chapter opens with one of Marjan's recipes, then intertwines the recipe into the events that follow. The villagers are your typical Irish stereotypes: bullying pub owner, narrow-minded gossip, goodhearted priest, lonely widow, disgraced actress turned hairdresser and unwed mother. While the locals resist at first, the magic of Marjan's cooking soon wins them over. But the pub owner, Thomas McGuire, has eyes on the space the Aminpours have leased for their restaurant and vows to sink them. Meanwhile, his dreamy and handsome son (or at least his wife's son) falls in love with Layla. As the leisurely soap opera of village life plays out-the priest puts on a play, the lonely widow mothers the sisters, the villain's plot is foiled-readers also learn the heartbreaking story of the Aminpours' flight from Iran. Raising her sisters after their parents' deaths, Marjan was drawn into revolutionary activities by her childhood sweetheart and briefly imprisoned, while Bahar fell under the thumb of a fundamentalist neighbor and married the woman's sadistic son. After a particularly vicious encounter with Bahar's husband, the sisters fled. Now they've come to Ballinacroagh to hidefrom Bahar's husband, who had tracked them to London. That stark story sits uneasily alongside the predictable comedy-drama of Ballinacroagh. The mix of cutesy and harsh can be awkward, but first-timer Mehran's lighthearted voice will win readers over.
From the Publisher
 
"Few novels have such charm, such fusion. Marsha Mehran takes one of the great staples of literature, food and its creation, and makes it  the vehicle of a delightful, subtle fairytale. With a deep understanding of opposites such as whimsy and poignancy, she delivers a moving and very amusing enquiry into whether differences between peoples exist at all. "

Frank Delaney, author of Ireland

 
"Pomegranate Soup is glorious, daring and delightful.  I adored the Iranian sisters, Marjan, Bahar and Layla, who are looking to build a life, start a business and find love in a place so far from home. Ireland has never been more beautiful — the perfect setting for this story filled with humor, hope and possibility."
—Adriana Trigiani, author of Rococo

Recalling James Joyce's Dubliners, this first novel by Mehran (who was born in Iran but now lives in Ireland) centers on the inhabitants of a small Irish town. When three Iranian sisters move into the former bake shop and open a Middle Eastern caf , turmoil erupts. The quirky and wonderfully fleshed-out characters who make up the populace of Ballinacroagh align with either the sisters and their exotic delicacies or the town bully, Thomas McGuire, who attempts to put them out of business. From the young and lovely Layla to resident gossip Dervla Quigley, these characters come to life; they're as uniquely simple or as deeply complex as the dishes that eldest sister Marjan concocts-recipes included! Personal demons and questioned loyalties play out like a movie on the page (think Joanne Harris's Chocolat), making the reader feel like an eyewitness to all the events. A satisfying summer read or book club pick; highly recommended.
— Library Journal

 
“Books Best Read With a Helping of Fairy Dust: Three sisters who have fled their native Iran set up a Persian cafe in their new home, the tiny town of Ballinacroagh, Ireland. After initial suspicion, the townsfolk learn to love the shop with its spicy fragrances and exotic foods. Marsha Mehran describes the food in mouthwatering detail—with a dash of magic realism.”

The Chicago Tribune

To give the reader a better appreciation for the pivotal role of food in the novel, Mehran includes recipes for some Iranian specialties: stuffed grape leaves, elephant ear pastries, and the title’s pomegranate soup. Stark contrasts between the sisters’ lives in Iran and Ireland and between the Irish and Persian cultures energize Mehran’s tale.

Mark Knoblauch  — Booklist

“In one bite, exotic pomegranates offer a bittersweet reminder of where you are and where you could be. Marsha Mehran is masterful in her exploration of the worlds of the familiar vs. the unfamiliar, chuckling all the way.”

— Rocco DiSpirito, celebrity chef and author of Flavor and Rocco's Italian American

 
Pomegranate Soup, a delightful debut novel, goes from Iran to Ireland and catches the flavors of both cultures through unforgettable scenes and characters.  The three Aminpour sisters leaving Iran on the eve of the Revolution, opening a Persian restaurant in an Irish town, enchant us with their optimism and aroma of pomegranate soup, lingering beyond the pages.”

— Nahid Rachlin, author of Foreigner and Veils

 
“Vibrantly alive and populated with rich characters, this is a delicious first novel flavored generously with Persian spices and Irish temperaments. Marsha Mehran writes with a deft hand and a sparkling imagination.”

—Amulya Malladi, author of Serving Crazy with Curry

 
"An enchanting tale of love, family and renewal that illuminates the magical qualities of Persian cuisine."

— Firoozeh Dumas, author of Funny in Farsi

 
“Pomegranate Soup is a delicious first novel, chock-full of wisdom, hope and the human capacity to overcome.  All first novels should offer as much.”

-Philip Gulley, author of the Harmony series and If Grace Is True 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780732281151
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Australia
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.59 (w) x 7.44 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Tehran, Iran, Marsha Mehran escaped the Revolution with her family. She has since lived in such diverse places as Buenos Aires, The United States, Australia and Ireland. Her first novel, Pomegranate Soup was an international bestseller, and her second novel, Rosewater and Soda Bread, continues the adventures of the three Aminpour sisters. She lives in New York, where she is busy spinning more tales.

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Read an Excerpt

Pomegranate Soup


By Marsha Mehran

Random House

Marsha Mehran
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1400062411


Chapter One

Chapter One

For Marjan Aminpour, the fragrances of cardamom and rosewater, alongside basmati, tarragon, and summer savory, were everyday kinds of smells, as common, she imagined, as the aromas of instant coffees and dripping roasts were to conventional Western kitchen corners.

Despite having been born in a land of ancient deserts, where dry soil mingled with the crumbled remains of Persepolian pillars, Marjan had a great talent for growing plants. She had learned from an early age how to tempt the most stubborn seedlings to take root, even before she could spell their plant names in Farsi. Guided by the gentle hands of Baba Pirooz, the old bearded gardener who tended the grounds of her childhood home, young Marjan cultivated furry stalks of marjoram and golden angelica in dark mounds of earth. The dirt drew its moisture from melted mountain snow, which trickled down from the nearby Alborz into Tehran's wealthier suburbs, before flowing into the Aminpours' large octagonal fountain. Bubbling at the center of the walled garden, the pool was lined with turquoise and green Esfahani tiles.

While Marjan trained her eye to spot the first yellow buds of tarragon, or to catch a weed's surreptitious climb up the stalk of a dill plant, Baba Pirooz would recount the long line of celebrated gardeners who had been born on Persian soil. "Avicenna," Baba Pirooz began, clearing his throat, "Avicenna was the most famous plant lover of them all. Did you know, Marjan Khanoum, that this wise physician was the first man ever to make rosewater? He squeezed the soft petals for their oils then bottled the precious liquid for the world to enjoy. What a Persian, what a man!" the old gardener would exclaim, pausing only long enough in his lectures to ignite the strawberry tobacco he smoked in a knobby little pipe.

As an adult, Marjan carried the warm memories of Baba Pirooz and her childhood garden with her wherever she went. Not a day passed by that she was not on the lookout for some mound of soil to plunge her fingers into. Using her bare knuckles, engraved with terra-cotta dust and mulch, she would massage her chosen herb or flower into the soil's folds, whispering loving encouragements along the way. And no matter how barren that slice of earth had been before, once Marjan gave it her special attention, there was no limit to all that could blossom within its charged chambers.

In the many places she had lived--and there had been quite a few in her twenty-seven years--Marjan had always planted a small herb garden, consisting of at least one stem each of basil, parsley, tarragon, and summer savory. Even in the gloomy English flats she and her sisters had occupied for the last seven years since leaving Iran, Marjan had successfully grown a rainbow of cooking herbs in the blue ceramic flowerpots lining her kitchen windowsill. Always the consummate professional, she could not be tempted to give up planting by any amount of rain.

Marjan tried to keep her past perseverance in mind now as she stood in the old pastry shop's kitchen mixing a second batch of dolmeh stuffing. She wished she'd had more time to cultivate a healthy ensemble of fresh tarragon, mint, and summer savory to add to the dolmeh that she and her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, were making. Perhaps if she had planted something here in Ballinacroagh, she could have avoided the anxieties that were now creeping up her spine. But then, Marjan reminded herself, it was best not have such regrets, especially when she couldn't do anything about them. There was still one more batch of the stuffed grape leaves to go--not to mention a half dozen other mouth-watering delicacies--and Time, that cantankerous old fool, was not on her side.

The Babylon Café was set to open in less than five hours. Five hours! In this new town whose name she could hardly pronounce, let alone spell. Ballinacroagh. Ba-li-na-crow. A whole town full of people who would come to taste her fares with questioning eyes and curious tongues. And unlike her other stints in the kitchen, this time she would be responsible for everything.

Marjan's heart quickened as she browned the ground meat and onions together over the low, dancing flame. The satisfied pan hissed as she introduced dried versions of her precious herbs, the only sort she had been able to buy at such late notice. Even in Iran, there had been times when Marjan had had to resort to cooking dolmeh with dried herbs. By soaking them overnight, she had discovered, they worked almost as well as their fresher relatives. Using her entire torso, Marjan mixed the herbs with the cooked rice, fresh lime juice, salt and pepper. She stirred with all her might despite the unrelenting ache in her shoulders, for such strong rotations were necessary to the dolmeh's harmony.

Pausing to rub her tired arms, Marjan glanced across the kitchen at her sister Bahar, who was rolling up the first batch of dolmeh. With her wide and piercing eyes, Bahar always looked intense when she worked with food--as if her life depended on whichever vegetable or herb was being sacrificed on the chopping block before her. Surprisingly, of the three Aminpour sisters, it was petite Bahar who possessed the greatest upper arm strength. Fragile in most every other way, Bahar had shoulders and arms that were as powerful as those of a man twice her size, which came in handy whenever jars needed to be opened or there was mixing to be done.

Marjan picked up the wooden spoon and returned to the dolmeh. Her sister looked too busy now to help her beat the remaining stuffing, for not only was Bahar concentrating on rolling her own grape leaves but she was also keeping Layla's work in check. No matter how many times Marjan was reminded of the differences in her younger sisters' personalities, there was nothing like the simple act of rolling dolmeh to show her how poles apart Bahar and Layla really were.

Bahar, guided by a stern inner compass, smartly slapped each grape leaf (vein side up) on the chopping block. It was a consistent, methodical march that started with a no-nonsense scoop of stuffing with her left hand, followed by a skilled right-handed tuck of the grape leaf. Then, bringing the dolmeh to a clean surrender, she briskly rolled the grape leaf from the bottom up. Despite her rather gruff manner, Bahar's method for rolling dolmeh was always successful; she ensured that her little bundles of good fortune were secure on the road up, lest all that she had gathered should fall asunder.

Rolling was always where Layla faltered, for her method was more carefree and altogether too trusting. Although Marjan and Bahar demonstrated the right way endless times, Layla would still leave her dolmeh vulnerable to the elements. One could always tell which bundles were hers, for if neither of her older sisters was quick enough to catch the spill of stuffing, rerolling the grape leaf while shaking her head, the moment of truth came forty-five minutes later with the opening of the oven door. Among the neat, aromatic green fingers expertly tucked by Marjan and Bahar would be the younger girl's unmistakable burst parcels of golden filling. And for some strange reason, they always smelled of Layla's signature scent--rosewater and cinnamon.

It was a familiar enough smell, this faint perfume that accompanied Layla's every move, but odd for a recipe that did not contain either ingredient. The cinnamon-rose dolmeh never really surprised her sisters, though. Layla had a way of raising expectations beyond the ordinary.

when thomas mcguire's spits and curses hit the pavement outside the old pastry shop, Bahar was in the middle of removing a ready tray of dolmeh from the oven. After forty-five minutes they were as perfectly symmetrical as the greatest Persian carpets, the tray a clean loom upon which the stuffed grape leaf fingers were lined in even clusters and patterns. Although the kitchen was at the back of the shop, the sound of Thomas's vulgar excretions carried clearly to Bahar's sensitive ears. Gasping with surprise, she reached for the hot tray of dolmeh with bare hands and paid dearly for her distraction with the start of smoking blisters.

"Quick! Get under the cold water! Layla--aloe vera! Bahar, stop squeezing your thumb like that!" Marjan yelled, pushing her sister toward the sink. As the eldest of the three, Marjan was accustomed to directing her sisters in emergencies.

Bahar shuddered as the cold water ran over her scorched thumb. In the upstairs flat, a small one-bedroom residence that the Delmonicos had used as an office and storage area, Layla scrambled through open cardboard boxes looking for the green bottle of soothing gel.

"I can't find the aloe! Are you sure you packed it?" she yelled down to the kitchen.

"Yes!" Marjan hollered. "Look in the small box that says 'Miscellaneous'!"

"Don't worry. It's stopped already. See? I'll just put an ice cube on it," said Bahar, sticking out her hurt thumb so Marjan could see the rising welts.

Bahar tried to put on a brave face, but inside she felt a lot like that thumb of hers. Born, as her name indicated, on the first day of the Persian spring, she had the superstitious nature of people whose birthdays fall on the cusps of changing seasons. She was forever looking over her shoulder for fear that she had stepped on cracks or wandered under a ladder. Bahar's inherent nervousness had escalated to a deeper malaise in recent years, the result of unspeakable events that had left indelible scars. Although her neurotic tendencies often irritated the more hardy teenager Layla, Marjan's heart just softened a bit more every time she saw her sister jump so.

"Are you sure you're all right? Listen, I'll finish the dolmeh. Just mix the rice for me, okay?" Marjan gave Bahar an ice cube wrapped in a torn piece of newspaper and placed the piping tray of dolmeh on a low wooden island in the middle of the kitchen.

Made especially for a man of Napoleonic measurements, this rectangular table had been the centerpiece of Luigi Delmonico's kingdom, where he rolled, powdered, slapped, and whipped the exquisite paninis and chocolate-filled brioches he would later showcase in his beloved Papa's Pastries. It was also where Estelle, his bride of forty-five years, had found him dead--three hours after the bowl of meringue he was preparing had stiffened into a pink, cotton-candied tutu.

Of course, Estelle had failed to mention this last point when she had shown the three sisters around the place five days ago, though in reality, it probably would have made little difference. The girls' battered boxes were already shipped over and waiting to be picked up in Castlebar. Besides, the shop, complete with all the appliances and utensils of a working kitchen (albeit outdated and a bit rusty), was perfect for what Marjan had in mind. And it came at a bargain price.

"My niece told me that you are the best chef she has ever seen. Gloria, she's a very good girl, no?"

Mrs. Delmonico had stood in the kitchen after the grand tour, the dying afternoon rays entering lazily through a narrow, stained-glass partition in the back door. The sun rays illuminated the dust particles floating above her peppery hair. All surfaces, from countertops to the stacks of pots and dishes, were cloaked in a good inch of the snowy stuff.

"Oh, Gloria was very good to us when we arrived in Lewisham. A great friend," Marjan said. Behind her, Bahar and Layla both nodded in agreement. "But I think she was exaggerating a bit about my abilities. I was only a sous chef. She was the real talent at the restaurant."

"Yes, Gloria knows how to cook parmigiana and manicotti, but who doesn't? Maybe to those English that is gourmet, but you should have seen my grandmother cook! Pfff! If she was still alive today she would be rich from her cooking, I tell you!"

Estelle Delmonico laughed and placed her chubby hands on her hips. The good-natured widow cocked her head and offered a smile to each of the three young women. Fate had it that, although blessed with the welcoming girth of childbearing hips, she had never been able to give Luigi a baby of their own. It was one of her few regrets in an otherwise fortunate and colorful life. But her barrenness had never turned to resentment, a blessing Estelle often accredited to her niece, on whom she was able to practice all the loving criticisms her own mother had lavished upon her. Gloria was a great source of release for Estelle Delmonico, and now she had sent her three darlings to look after as well.

"Okay, then? You will take the store, eh?"

Marjan turned to Bahar and Layla, both of whom appeared to be asleep standing up. Their drawn, exhausted faces had the look of torshi, pickled onions that have been pulled from their bed of vinegar and salt. Who could blame them, really? It had been a long four days since they left London, shipping off their hastily packed boxes and throwing a few personal belongings into two worn plaid suitcases, the same suitcases that had seen them through the Iranian desert a long time ago. The plane ride from London to Knock had been painfully tedious, immigration and customs even worse. Answering the same questions about their religion and ethnic background over and over again. Then two days holed up in a backpackers' hostel in the nearby town of Castlebar, waiting for their boxes to arrive while they survived on white bread and some hard cheese that Marjan had bought from a corner grocery. Layla, of course, had complained all the way (such was the prerogative of her age), but Bahar had remained sullen, her big doe eyes wet with frightened tears.

But, thought Marjan, the worst certainly seemed behind them. Especially now that they were standing in this dusty little kitchen, with this generous Italian woman. It was time for a new start, time for them to take all the money they had in the world and finally make something of those years of hardship.

"You stay, yes?" Estelle Delmonico pulled a heavy, corroded key from a hidden pocket in her black dress. Toothy and archaic, it was the kind of key that would have released Pandora's own demons.

"Yes." Marjan nodded, accepting the key. "We'll stay. How would you like the rent paid? Monthly or weekly?"

"Agh, don't worry about that now. You give it to me whenever you have it, yes? I think what is more important is to get you a big bowl of my minestrone soup.

Continues...


Excerpted from Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Each chapter in Pomegranate Soup begins with a traditional Persian recipe, which is then incorporated into the story like a character. Why do you think the author has chosen to highlight the food in this manner? How do you think the recipes guide the narrative? Is there one recipe that resonated more with you than the others? Why?

2. We first meet the three Aminpour sisters, Marjan, Bahar and Layla, in the kitchen of the new Babylon Café. Discuss how this setting offers a glimpse into the differences in their personalities. If you have siblings, do you recognize the dynamics between the three sisters?

3. Marjan cooks in accordance to the Zoroastrian system of gastronomic balancing, known as sard and garm. As one of the world’s first monotheistic religions, Zoroastrianism introduced the dual ideas of good and evil, which are now practiced in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Have you ever heard of Zoroastrianism or the concepts of sard and garm, cold and hot foods? How is

4. Why do you think the author has chosen to set Pomegranate Soup in 1980s Ireland, instead of today? How do you think the village of Ballinacroagh perpetuates the fairytale image tourists often have of Ireland? In what ways, if any, does Ballinacroagh differ from this idealized picture?

5. The Aminpour sisters escape Tehran on the eve of the Islamic Revolution. What do you know of Iran’s history, particularly the revolution of 1979? Were you surprised to read that the Shah was as unpopular as he was with many Iranians? If you were around during the time of the revolution, what images do you remember receiving about it through media outlets in the West?

6. BothMarjan and Bahar were romantically involved with men who supported the Islamic Revolution. These relationships led the two women to perform revolutionary activities, which they later regretted. Do you feel either sister has come to terms with her violent past? Have you ever felt like you’ve lost your moral compass in a relationship?

7. In the classical Greek myth of Persephone, Demeter, the goddess of Spring, has a daughter named Persephone who is kidnapped by Hades, god of the Underworld. Have you ever heard of this myth? What parallels do you see between this myth and the three sisters’ story

8. The Babylon Café provides a venue for dreams to flourish. Discuss how the food and the sisters’ temperaments influence the villagers to pursue dreams that may have lay hidden, even to themselves. Have you ever experienced a quiet epiphany such as the one that Father Mahoney has over a bowl of abgusht? Or was your moment of transformation more pronounced, as Tom Junior’s in the Cat’s cottage?

9. What parallels do you find between Ballinacroagh's bully, Thomas McGuire, and Hossein Jaferi in Iran? What are the differences? Is Thomas McGuire’s malevolence born of evil, or is his villainy more pathetic, even humorous, perhaps? Can you think of any other parallels between the sisters’ experiences in the Irish village and revolution-era Iran?

10. Marjan, Bahar, and Layla try to protect one another from the memories of the past. Discuss the various forms in which this protection is exhibited. How is this over-protectiveness similar to events you might have experienced in your own life? Do you relate to any one sister’s methods more?

11. Croagh Patrick looms protectively over the village of Ballinacroagh. The holy mountain is where the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, reportedly took his Lenten fast, banishing the evil spirits that had haunted him his entire life. What roles do Croagh Patrick and Saint Patrick play in Bahar's self-revelation? What do you think initially sparked her desire to climb the mountain?

12. Young Layla and Malachy provide a romantic subplot for the story, but they also embody the future. Do you agree with this observation? Discuss.

13. What would you like to see happen to the three sisters after the story ends? Do you think they have found a home in Ballinacroagh? Do you think they are ready to heal from the painful events of their past?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2014

    Elders den

    Emberclan

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2014

    Hades Cabin

    This is only the description. The cabin is in the next res.)) A simple and ominous building of obsidian. An archway made of translucent quartz stands before the door. The door itself is built from bronze with gemstone inlays. The interior of the cabin is plain, with a cold steel fountain for Iris messages and several bunk beds.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

    Greek mythology club

    Search reigndeer

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  • Posted November 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Pomegranate Soup

    In the sleepy town of Ballinacroagh in Ireland,three strangers arrive to shake things up,The different but exotically beautiful Aminpour sisters,Marjan,Bahar and Layla arrive to start Babylon cafe which sells traditional Persian food,delicacies and drinks.Well most of the townsfolk are welcoming,there are some who detest the three sisters such as Thomas McGuire who wants the sisters cafe space for his disco,Layla goes to school and because of her beauty attracts the attention of most of the boys at school,she is extracted to broody Malachy who is Thomas's half son and is very different from his father,Malachy is attracted to Layla,so much that he knocks over a tower tampons at the convenience store much to my amusement,Bahar has a very scarred past with an abusive husband so she finds it hard to trust people,Marjan is the oldest sister,kind and motherly plus she cooks awesome tasting food.The ending was not spectacular but heartwarming and sweet.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2010

    Pomegrantate Soup

    Enjoyed the characters - Recipes are great - I have actually tried a few. A good rainy day read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2008

    Interesting format...struggled to get through

    I liked how different this book was, however it failed to really grip me. It took quite a while for me to finish because I just wasn't that interested in the characters or what happened to them. I may or may not read the follow up novel.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2007

    Enticing Book

    I really enjoyed this book. It was wonderfully written and made you want to really know the sister's stories. I was intrigued by the setting and the wonderful recipes included in the book as well. Great read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2006

    Is this the beginning?

    I thought this book was wonderful! The characters, especially the three sisters, were very well-drawn. What I'm wondering, though, is if this is the beginning of a series about these three young women. I can kind of see where the eventual saga is going, but I'd like to see how it gets there.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2005

    Pomegranate Soup

    Not my normal read, but I did enjoy it from start to finish. Liked the food part. Deffinately a movie book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2005

    Pomegranate Soup

    I read a number of books this summer but so far this is the one that made me smile.Its like I took a trip to two countries in one book and ended up with a story that is similar to 'Chocolat' but with a hint of 'The Field'. The Irish caracters are great and the recipes are wonderful.This might be the authors first book, but I have read many books by some very well known writers and there storytelling does not even stand up to this book. THIS IS A NICE STORY! It was nice to finally find a good read this Summer!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2005

    Pomegranate Soup

    Loved this book!!! Perfect for the Fall!The narrative is brisk, detailed and charming, the humor is delightful and the story, while simple, is addictive. Mehran effectively captures both the lexicon and atmosphere of the Irish and the Persian. The best way to describe it is to call it a modern, enchanting fairy tale in which multiple cultures and foods interact so effectively that they defeat the human tendency to ostracize because of racism and intolerance. Not only are the Irish and Persians apt to fall in love with the story ¿ but people of just about any other culture or ethnic group given half a chance. The author shows an exceptional imagination bound to lead her to a prolific writing career.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2005

    Pomegranate Soup

    Not my normal read but this made me happy! Took me forever to get the book but the wait was worth while. Thanks E-Bay!! Full of humour, food, love and drama! This book is for everyone and at the end you feel warm and fussy. All my friends will be borrowing this book that's for sure. I dont think they will wait for paperback and out local liberary is gettin it in.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2005

    Pomegranate Soup

    Marsha Mehran's Pomegranate Soup is a wonderful first novel, she manages to fuse the magical mysticism that surrounds Croagh Patrick with the exotic Persian cuisine of her native Iran. The story captures the lack of tolerance that sadly, is all too common today and the power of friendship that enables people to fight that intolerance. In an ever-changing Ireland where many from abroad have sought asylum, Marsha Mehran has managed to capture the feeling's of loneliness and despair that many feel upon arrival in a new country. She also strips away the veils of religion and nationality to prove the point that fundamentally we are all the same in our goals for love, happiness and a place we can call home. Hats off to Ms Mehran and here's to reading her next novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2005

    Pomegranate Soup

    I agree!Really great read and perfect for the beach. This town that she sets the book in is so like the small towns in Ireland its uncanny. The bully, the gossip, the dreamer. Its does remind me of Like Water for Choclate but thats brill as I loved that book. I hope she continues writing like this because she has made a new fan!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2005

    Pomegranate Soup

    This was a great read. I picked it up in B&N on Sunday after review in Newsday. What a wonderful fun and light-hearted read. It made me feel many different emotions. The three sisters made you feel part of there journey as they tried to blend into a new country. The caracters in Ireland reminded me of my trip there in 86. This book I read in two days. But I was smiling for all those days.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2005

    Totally enjoyed this novel!

    Recieved a review copy from a friend and I must say from start to finish I loved it. The humor is bright, the recipes are delicious (made the elephant ears three times already!), and the drama is a little heart wrenching. But over all I cant wait for her next one!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews

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