The Septembers of Shiraz: A Novel

The Septembers of Shiraz: A Novel

by Dalia Sofer


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Soon to be a major motion picture starring Adrien Brody and Salma Hayek

In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, rare-gem dealer Isaac Amin is arrested, wrongly accused of being a spy. Terrified by his disappearance, his family must reconcile a new world of cruelty and chaos with the collapse of everything they have known. As Isaac navigates the terrors of prison, and his wife feverishly searches for him, his children struggle with the realization that their family may soon be forced to embark on a journey of incalculable danger.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061130410
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/29/2008
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 367,639
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.83(d)

About the Author

Dalia Sofer was born in Iran and fled at the age of ten to the United States with her family. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and has been a resident at Yaddo. A graduate of the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, she lives in New York City.


New York, NY USA

Place of Birth:

Tehran, Iran


NYU, BA with major in French Literature and minor in Creative Writing; Sarah Lawrence College, MFA in Fiction

Read an Excerpt

The Septembers of Shiraz

By Dalia Sofer

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Dalia Sofer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061130403

Chapter One

When Isaac Amin sees two men with rifles walk into his office at half past noon on a warm autumn day in Tehran, his first thought is that he won't be able to join his wife and daughter for lunch, as promised.

"Brother Amin?" the shorter of the men says.

Isaac nods. A few months ago they took his friend Kourosh Nassiri, and just weeks later news got around that Ali the baker had disappeared.

"We're here by orders of the Revolutionary Guards." The smaller man points his rifle directly at Isaac and walks toward him, his steps too long for his legs. "You are under arrest, Brother."

Isaac shuts the inventory notebook before him. He looks down at his desk, at the indifferent items witnessing this event—the scattered files, a metal paperweight, a box of Dunhill cigarettes, a crystal ashtray, and a cup of tea, freshly brewed, two mint leaves floating inside. His calendar is spread open and he stares at it, at today's date, September 20, 1981, at the notes scribbled on the page—call Mr. Nakamura regarding pearls, lunch at home, receive shipment of black opals from Australia around 3:00 PM, pick up shoes from cobbler—appointments he won't be keeping. On theopposite page is a glossy photo of the H¯afez mausoleum in Shiraz. Under it are the words, "City of Poets and Roses."

"May I see your papers?" Isaac asks.

"Papers?" the man chuckles. "Brother, don't concern yourself with papers."

The other man, silent until now, takes a few steps. "You are Brother Amin, correct?" he asks.


"Then please follow us."

He examines the rifles again, the short man's stubby finger already on the trigger, so he gets up, and with the two men makes his way down his five-story office building, which seems strangely deserted. In the morning he had noticed that only nine of his sixteen employees had come to work, but he had thought nothing of it; people had been unpredictable lately. Now he wonders where they are. Had they known?

As they reach the pavement he senses the sun spreading down his neck and back. He feels calm, almost numb, and he reminds himself he should remain so. A black motorcycle is parked by the curb, next to his own polished, emerald-green Jaguar. The small man smirks at the sleek automobile, then mounts his motorcycle, releases the brake, and ignites the engine. Isaac mounts next, with the second soldier behind him. "Hold on tight," the soldier says. Isaac's arms girdle the small man and the third man rests his hands on Isaac's waist. Sandwiched between the two he feels the bony back of one against his stomach and the belly of the other pushing into his back. The bitter smell of unwashed hair makes him gag. Turning his head to take a breath, he glimpses one of his employees, Morteza, frozen on the sidewalk like a bystander at a funeral procession.

The motorcycle swerves through the narrow spaces between jammed cars. He watches the city glide by, its transformation now so obvious to him: movie posters and shampoo advertisements have been replaced by sweeping murals of clerics; streets once named after kings now claim the revolution as their patron; and once-dapper men and women have become bearded shadows and black veils. The smell of kebab and charcoaled corn, rising from the street vendor's grill, fills the lunch hour. He had often treated himself to a hot skewer of lamb kebab here, sometimes bringing back two dozen for his employees, who would congregate in the kitchen, slide the tender meat off the skewers with slices of bread, and chew loudly. Isaac joined them from time to time, and while he could not allow himself to eat with equal abandon, he would be pleased for having initiated the gathering.

The vendor, fanning his grilled meat, looks at Isaac on the motorcycle, stupefied. Isaac looks back, but his captors pick up speed and he feels dizzy all of a sudden, ready to topple over. He locks his fingers around the driver's girth.

They stop at an unassuming gray building, dismount the bike, and enter. Greetings are exchanged among the revolutionaries and Isaac is led to a room smelling of sweat and feet. The room is small, maybe one-fifth the size of his living room, with mustard-yellow walls. He is seated on a bench, already filled with about a dozen men. He is squeezed between a middle-aged man and a young boy of sixteen or seventeen.

"I don't know how they keep adding more people on this bench," the man next to him mumbles, as though to himself but loudly enough for Isaac to hear. Isaac notices the man is wearing pajama pants with socks and shoes.

"How long have you been here?" he asks, deciding that the man's hostility has little to do with him.

"I'm not sure," says the man. "They came to my house in the middle of the night. My wife was hysterical. She insisted on making me a cheese sandwich before I left. I don't know what got into her. She cut the cheese, her hands shaking. She even put in some parsley and radishes. As she was about to hand me the sandwich one of the soldiers grabbed it from her, ate it in three or four bites, and said, 'Thanks, Sister. How did you know I was starving?'" Hearing this story makes Isaac feel fortunate; his family at least had been spared a similar scene. "This bench is killing my back," the man continues. "And they won't even let me use the bathroom."

Isaac rests his head against the wall. How odd that he should get arrested today of all days, when he was going to make up his long absences to his wife and daughter by joining them for lunch. For months he had been leaving the house at dawn, when the snow-covered Elburz Mountains slowly unveiled themselves in . . .


Excerpted from The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer Copyright © 2007 by Dalia Sofer. 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.

What People are Saying About This

Alison Smith

“Spare and deeply felt-Sofer’s prose shines with life and compassion.”

Vendela Vida

“One of the most beautiful first novels I’ve ever come across. It is a rare book.”

Claire Messud

“A remarkable debut...richly evocative, powerfully affecting…as beautiful and delicate as a book about suffering can be.”

Lisa See

“Stunning—beautiful, tragic, layered, and thought-provoking.”

Joan Silber

“[A] beautiful novel—rich and exact in its depictions of one family’s ordeal in Iran after the Shah.”

Dani Shapiro

“That this beautiful novel is a debut seems almost impossible . . . a remarkable emotional and intellectual achievement.”

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The Septembers of Shiraz 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I couldn't put it down. It brings a personal glimpse into post-revolutionary Iran and also makes the reader think about themes such as the pursuit of wealth and the importance of family. My husband's family still lives in Iran and I really enjoyed getting a feel for the complex class, war, religious issues in the early 80s.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am so glad that I stumbled over this book. Together with Khaled Housseins two books this is one of the best books that I have read this year. It is so intriguing and imposisble to put down. The plot is amazingly realistic and even my husband who prefers to read non-fiction couldn't put this book down until it was over and then we both were sad that there was no more of the book. Hope to get more from this promising author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't believe this is Sofer's first book. Normally, I'm not inclined to buy debut novels - regardless of how good the reviews are. Also, I'm even less likely, generally, to buy hardcover books. I've got plenty of work-related stuff to lug around daily, so paperbacks are simply easier on my back. This book, however, was an exception. Indeed, it is exceptional. I started reading chapter 1 in the bookstore, thinking I'll skim a few lines before heading over to the 'new in paperback' table. But I was hooked. It didn't grab me aggressively like a mystery or action novel. I can't explain it, really. It just made me want to sit down right there in the store and keep reading. Indeed, the subject is compelling and the book does begin with a dramatic event. But Sofer's prose is so eloquent - it makes you want to keep reading simply for the joy of reading, as well as to find out what happens. As for my dilemma - whether to buy or not to buy? Well, there were no comfortable places to sit in the bookstore, so I took the plunge and bought it. I deliberately read it slowly to maximize the pleasure from my investment. Then, I re-read it and enjoyed it even more.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1981 in Tehran, the Revolutionary Guards arrest Jewish gem trader Isaac Amin at is his business office accusing him of espionage. The real reason for his incarceration is religion as the Ayatollah led Muslim fanaticism has taken the country. Besides being Jewish and affluent, Isaac, like any business man in Iran, did have loose ties to the fallen regime of the Shah, but those who hold him prisoner for seditious acts need no proof to do so.----------- As Isaac observes torture and execution, he worries what will happen to his wife Farnaz and their daughter Shirin. He thanks God that their son Parviz attends college in Brooklyn. Although he has no way of knowing what is happening to his two females as contact is forbidden, he has cause to fret about their safety. Farnaz is spiraling into an out of control depression as she anguishes what to do. Shirin is outraged at the persecution of her father and she steals documents from the father of a playmate the man runs the prison where her dad has vanished inside. In Brooklyn, Parviz, who was not very religious to start with, has deeper doubts with his father¿s arrest and struggles with surviving as he is suddenly poor he also has fallen in love with a devout Hasidic.---------- This is a deep historical fiction tale that warns the audience that religious prejudice harms individuals, families and communities regardless of the group claiming God¿s blessings. However, the key to this well written thought provoking cautionary tale is the Amin family. Each took for granted their status under the Shah choosing to ignore the atrocities and the threats to their lives once the upheaval occurred. Thus the Guard sees the Amin family, especially Isaac, as part of the problem. Dalia Sofer provides a poignant family drama using a twentieth century pivotal point as the catalyst.---- Harriet Klausner
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
I felt for Farnaz and Shirin the most. They were alone with no information on Isaac. I thought Farnaz did her best to deal with Isaac's arrest even though their marriage wasn't exactly what you called perfect. I was very impressed how Shirin dealt with her father being arrested. Especially when she did hide those files. It might have made a difference and with that little act, it could have saved some lives. The story was well written and did tug on a lot of emotions while reading. Isaac's time in prison was filled with despair and you could feel his hope fading away as he counts the days of his time spent there. The book was filled with close calls, and immediate suspicion among characters as to who's playing the role of informant. As a reader, you could really feel Shirin's tension and fright over being exposed for what she's done. I wasn't sure what to make on the separate story arc on Parviz. It was interesting as he was struggling with his own identity, yet I felt that it wasn't as interesting as the main story arc that was taking place in Iran. I felt as if that story arc was added just for the sake of adding more to the plot. Overall, the story is beautifully written and emotional. There is an inkling of hope at the end of the novel and the reader is only left with wonder at the outcome of the characters in the book. I do recommend others to read this book. There's not many you see that takes place in Iran in this particular time in history.
CathyB More than 1 year ago
The Septembers of Shiraz is an amazing debut novel. Ms. Sofer eloquently depicts the struggle that Jewish jeweler Isaac Amin and his family face after the Iranian revolution of the 1970s. The prose is beautiful and has an underlying sadness to it - obviously due to the subject matter (fear and suffering). The Amin family (Isaac, Farnaz, Shirin and Parviz) are fully developed, realistic and will remain with you long after the story ends. Enjoy the following excerpt: She peers inside the shop through the glass. Nothing is left but dusty shelves, and a glass filled with turbid tea on the counter, along with a half-eaten sandwich, surrounded now by ants---Shahriar Beheshti's final lunch. "Looks like they got him recently." The Septembers of Shiraz I believe that Ms. Sofer is an author to watch for in the future. I know I will be looking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slower than expected.
amandacb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've tried to read this three times and have always only made it three-fourths of the way through. It's one of those books that starts out very strong and then peters out. The writing at the beginning is especially stellar, with excellent style and imagery. I even used an excerpt as an example for an English class I taught. However, as the story went on, I found myself losing interest in what happened to the characters.
hairball on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure why I didn't give this more stars--I wasn't unmoved by it. But, yeah, I'd rather re-read Persepolis, although that didn't have the nice prison torture scenes and all. However, I did like the portrayal of the pull between the upper classes and their servants/workers, and the way the revolutionaries kept going around in the book basically saying, "now we're on top" in this gleeful way, while sticking the communists in prison. Well, that's what happens when false consciousness dissolves and the proletariat rises up at last--and what do you get for it? You die, along with the oppressors, and still they cling to the opiate of the masses! Mwah-hah-hah. Wow, color me bitchy. Still, while Isaac, the man who gets thrown in prison for being a rich Jew, does seem to come to some awareness of why the Shah's secret police might not have been that great and why having money really does make his life easier, his consciousness doesn't get raised all that much during his time in prison. (Spoiler Alert!) When he buys his way out, sure, the reader is glad for him, but this reader also wanted to smack him for not realizing how lucky he was that he had the opportunity to do so--and not only that, but that he still had money left to pay smugglers. I'm sure once you've spent all that time in prison and been tortured, you don't feel lucky, but considering that most of the people he was in with didn't get out, well...(Not to mention that, when he first gets thrown in, he makes this remark about how, at least under the Shah's secret police, only the "real criminals" got taken in...) Ultimately, this is one of the many books that make me glad I live in a country that prefers to hone its torturing techniques on the citizens of other countries, such as those who populate this book, rather than its own citizens. Gee, aren't we lucky that we don't have a secret police? That we know about? Yet?
sydamy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It takes place during the early days of the Iranian revolution, and follows the trials and traumas of a secular Jew and his family, both in Iran and abroad. The book is beautifully written.It tackles a difficult period with thought and insight, as the author also fled Iran as a child. There is a calmness to the writing that is felt through the characters as they think and assess what is happening to them.There are many books about this period in history, this is among the better ones.
LaBibliophille on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dalia Sofer, the author of The Septembers of Shiraz, is an Iranian Jew who fled with her family to the United States at the age of ten. She writes with feeling for the country of Iran, and with the authority of someone who understands the terror of the uncertainty of life during a revolution.Isaac Amin, the main character in The Septembers of Shiraz, is a wealthy Jewish gemologist and jeweler in post-revolutionary Tehran. As the novel opens, Isaac is arrested at his office, blindfolded, and imprisoned. His wife, Farnaz, and nine year old daughter, Shirin, have no idea where he has been taken. As Farnaz searches for Isaac, he is interrogated, tortured, and placed in solitary confinement.Farnaz and Shirin attempt to continue with their lives. Isaac and Farnaz¿s son, eighteen year old Parviz, has already been sent to study in New York. He is a tenant in the basement apartment of an Hasidic family in Brooklyn. He struggles to continue his schooling, while surviving without family support.Isaac¿s previous connections to the deposed Shah, though tenuous, leave him and his family in jeopardy. While he is imprisoned, the family home is searched. Isaac¿s office is looted. Farnaz begins to suspect that Habibeh, the family¿s long-time housekeeper, has stolen items from their home, as well as betrayed them to the revolution.The Septembers of Shiraz is a moving depiction of a family whose very lives are on the edge. Throughout the book, I hoped that they would come through this ordeal alive, all the while knowing that they would never be the same.I found this novel compelling, and easy to read, and highly recommend it.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story is set in Iran shortly after the revolution (1980s). It tells of Issac Amin, a Jewish gemstone merchant who is arrested, held and tortured. It also tells the story of his wife (Farnaz) and young daughter (Shirin) who are coping not only with Issac's disappearance, but with the struggles of other family members dealing with the change in regime. And, Issac and Farnaz's son, Parviz, who has already emmigrated to America and is studying and facing his own struggles with love and life.It is a primarily the story of a family separated by political events from each other, from previously trusted servants, from their sense of who they are and what their lives have meant.My book club chose this one, and I was less than excited to read another book about the middle east -- there seem to be so many these days -- but this one was so rich and well written that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really, deeply cared whether the family was reunited in the end or not.......
kshaffar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written story of a family escaping from the Iranian Revolution of the 1980s, if it hadn't been so sad, it would have been a joy to read. As it was, I feel like a bit of a better person for having read it.Its characters were well wrought and believable, from the young son already in exile to the daughter who may not have a full comprehension of circumstances, but is sensitive enough to intuit that her life was about to change.Reminiscent of a Holocaust tale where survival is a series of random coincidences, this story was told subtly and made all the more powerful for it. Dalia Sofer is a master of the hint and uses it generously, reminding us that torture and systematic discrimination are cycles that continue to plague us. Well done.
tibobi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After the Iranian revolution, Isaac Amin, a rare gem dealer, is wrongly accused of being a Zionist spy. He is blindfolded and taken to prison without a chance to speak to his family. Leaving behind his wife and daughter and his son who is attending college in the states, Issac experiences the horrors of prison and realizes that he may not make it out alive.This story, somewhat auto-biographical, is told very simply and told from many different points of view. It's extremely well written and there were many times where I had to re-read a paragraph because of its lyrical nature. I have heard from others that the subject matter, particularly the torture scenes are too heavy to get through, but I felt the author handled them well. Not graphic..but enough of a description to experience what Isaac is feeling. The author also uses a very even, if not dispassionate tone throughout the story and I felt this to be appropriate, given the character's situation. In order to survive difficult times, people often become numb. I felt this was the case here and it worked well for the story.The Septembers of Shiraz would be a very good book club pick. There is lots to discuss here and the beauty of the writing makes it all the more worthwhile. Dalia Sofer is currently working on her next book and after reading Septembers, I can honestly say that I am eagerly awaiting its debut!
Bbexlibris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have already told you that I am Iran obsessed, right? Not just Iran, but also Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka...well, maybe just internationally obsessed. But this is the 4 book I have read from/ about Iran this year! I can't get enough, just can't. Okay on to the book!After the Iranian revolution, the jewel dealer Isaac Amin is taken, arrested and does not know why other than that he is a Jew, with a family connection to Israel. Even though it would seems so, this is not a book of simply a prisoner wrongly accused. Isaac narrates some chapters and the others are narrated by the other members of his family, his wife, his young daughter and his son who is trying to make it in America. I felt that the interweaving of the different voices really made the novel. It broke up the prison scenes and showed life at the same time.This was a great one. I loved reading it, and I loved thinking about the life of the people who lived in it. The writing is excellent, and I enjoyed the style as well. I have read that other bloggers thought the book emotionless, as if all the book were told in the same tone. I do not agree, I actually relied on the steady words of the narrators, on the calm tone of the pages. I felt that it was a voice of hope, that life will go on, things will change and suffering will be had, and yet there is a steady part in it all, a resiliency. I loved the voice of this novel.I highly recommend The Septembers of Shiraz, uber-powerful book of resiliency in the midst of insanity. I wouldn't be surprised it something big happens with this one (ie a prize, a movie know something cool). enjoy.
hjsesq on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written story of how a extended Jewish family living in Iran (with a child in the school in New York) suffers after the Iranian revolution. Involves the children, parents, friends, neighbors and employees. It is difficult to put down and yet sometimes difficult to read, fearing what consequences the family may face next.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'The father, who supported the Shah, is arrested at the beginning of the book, and the remainder portrays what happened to him, his wife, their daughter, and their son in American afterwards. The four different lives, and how each person chose to live, were interesting and believable. The writing was just slightly flat, however.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dalia Sofer¿s debut novel, The Septembers of Shiraz, shows how detrimental the Iranian Revolution was for many of Iran¿s citizens. Isaac Amin was a rare gem dealer who was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards in September 1981. Isaac was Jewish and had prospered well under the Shah, which made him suspicious in the eyes of the new regime. He was transported to prison where he was questioned, tortured and accused of being a Zionist spy.The story shifts from Isaac¿s point of view to that of his wife, Farnaz; his young daughter, Shirin; and his son, Parviz, a college student living in New York. The alternating viewpoints showed how each family member dealt with the sudden disappearance of Isaac. With emotions ranging from fear to courage, the Amin family tried to manage their day-to-day lives without the presence of their patriarch.I found The Septembers of Shiraz to be a captivating read. The Iranian Revolution is an unfamiliar topic for me, and the rigid conditions of this time make me wonder how anyone escaped arrest and execution. I rooted for each member of the Amin family as they struggled with Isaac¿s imprisonment. Sofer¿s writing style was lyrical yet approachable, drawing her readers into the story. If you are a fan of historical fiction, I would recommend this amazing story. I look forward to more books by this talented young author.
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Septembers of Shiraz was an unexpected pleasure that really struck me with both its story and the beautiful writing. There may be more skillful writers out there, but the way this story is told is an ideal vessel for the interwoven stories of the people affected by the turbulent, violent changing Iranian governments in the mid-eighties. Ms. Sofer's words are spare and poetic, but not overly so. Not only is it the story of Isaac Amin, a gems dealer wrongly accused and jailed (and brutally beaten) for being a spy, but one of his daughter and wife, left behind to live in fear for his life and theirs. Another wonderful off-shoot is the story of the Americanized son Parviz, living in NYC for architecture college, and his landlords/neighbors, a devout Jewish family. The minor characters also shine, such as the maid, who while always friends with the wife, suddenly views her differently and has grown to hate her employer's past riches. The uneasy friendship treads new and very sad water. This book could easily get splintered and disoriented, but it doesn't. It is a beautiful "slice of life" medly of tales of persecution, change, escape and renewal, in various stages of development. I was very young during these events, but this novel makes it clear how little we know of the lives of people who suffer behind the global headlines. Highly recommended.
sensitivemuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I felt for Farnaz and Shirin the most. They were alone with no information on Isaac. I thought Farnaz did her best to deal with Isaac¿s arrest even though their marriage wasn¿t exactly what you called perfect. I was very impressed how Shirin dealt with her father being arrested. Especially when she did hide those files. It might have made a difference and with that little act, it could have saved some lives. The story was well written and did tug on a lot of emotions while reading. Isaac¿s time in prison was filled with despair and you could feel his hope fading away as he counts the days of his time spent there. The book was filled with close calls, and immediate suspicion among characters as to who¿s playing the role of informant. As a reader, you could really feel Shirin¿s tension and fright over being exposed for what she¿s done. I wasn¿t sure what to make on the separate story arc on Parviz. It was interesting as he was struggling with his own identity, yet I felt that it wasn¿t as interesting as the main story arc that was taking place in Iran. I felt as if that story arc was added just for the sake of adding more to the plot.Overall, the story is beautifully written and emotional. There is an inkling of hope at the end of the novel and the reader is only left with wonder at the outcome of the characters in the book. I do recommend others to read this book. There¿s not many you see that takes place in Iran in this particular time in history.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well written & compelling, The Septembers of Shiraz follows the members of the Jewish-Iranian Amin family, after Isaac, the father, is imprisoned by the Revolutionary Guard.
eejjennings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lightly written story of a family's trauma during the Islamic Revolution when their father and husband, Isaac Amin, is taken to prison. The author describes each family member's reactions to this situation which helps the reader understand the setting from several perspectives. Although this is a novel, it is loosely based on the author's own experiences.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A moving story of a year in the life of an Iranian family in post-Shah Iran. This story weaves together the threads of one family's experiences when the father is imprisoned and tortured and the reverberations which resonate throughout three generations. The characters are so believable in all of their humanity, including their foibles, their strengths, their courage, and their fear. On a societal level there is a thread which addresses varied forms of faith, its true believers and its false ones. The human spirit is driven to survive, and it is amazing what a person can endure to do so.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a book for one of my RL book groups. It is set in Iran after the Islamic Revolution. The main character is the head of a Jewish family. He is a jeweler and rich. They are not religious Jews, but they are also not Muslim so the new regime targets them.The POV Isaac Amin is arrested at his office one day. They don't say why or who is behind it. So begins his journey as a prisoner of the regime. He is moved around, interrogated and accused of being an Israeli spy. He visits Israel and has relatives in the Israeli army (all young Israeli males are in their Army). But they have nothing specific to charge that he has done wrong. He is housed with other men who have been arrested. He tries to work out what is the best thing to do to stay in the good graces of the guards and interrogators. Some of the other men and teens are taken out and shot, some are tortured and returned to the cell broken and bleeding.The other thread of the book is his wife and daughter as they try to find out what happened to him, where he is, and if they can get him out. His wife Farnaz seems to be useless, she has a maid and normally does nothing. When Isaac is taken she becomes even more depressed. The new regime had already sapped her strength, and she just watched TV and drank. She waits months to tell his parents that he has been arrested. His daughter Shirin tries to maintain her life at school. She ends up finding files the regime is compiling on those they want to arrest. They are hidden in the basement at a friend's house. Her friend's father is part of the regime. Shirin starts stealing them. While doing so she finds one for her uncle. Her meddling disrupts the friend's father and he loses his job. There is an investigation launched to find who stole the files.There is also a grown son, Parviz, with his own thread. They sent him to the USA to avoid the draft. They don't want him to fight in the war with Iraq. He is going to college in NYC and lives in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn. He is struggling to survive, and yet thinks getting a job would be pointless. Somehow they had looked at universities in London and Paris and were going to buy him an apartment wherever he decided to go, but he was sent to the USA with no financial support. They are rich and just drift along with no sense of urgency or planning. It makes no sense. We follow Parviz as as he drifts along. He has a Hasidic landlord whom finally forces Parviz to work for him. Parviz also starts to fall for his daughter, but of course its not possible because Parviz is not even religious let alone Hasidic. We see the committed close-knit religious family who have goals and priorities.While in prison Isaac reminisces about his younger life and how he spent time in Shiraz. It becomes a symbol for freedom, lightness, love and laughter, but I have no idea why. It isn't really developed that well in the book. Isaac talks about it, but it isn't real for me.The story follows the family as they deal with Isaac's imprisonment and his eventual release. It looks at the relationships they have with other family members, friends, and the poor Muslims who work for them or in shops they frequent. It was well written and flowed, but seemed to lack something. Perhaps there is no sense of drama, and some of the characters are not real, or interesting. I enjoyed it but thought it could have been better. Not quite bland but in that neighborhood. Many of the characters just drifted along and didn't have a focus or a goal.
caroren on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dalia Sofer, who was forced to flee postrevolutionary Iran at the age of ten after her own father was unjustly imprisoned, captures her family's experiences in this moving, semiautobiographical tale. Citing Sofer's evocative prose, sensitive characterizations, and suspenseful plot, reviewers called Sofer's debut novel persuasive and memorable. Though she ruminates on themes of faith, love, and the heavy toll of political and religious oppression, Sofer's honesty and balanced outlook prevent the story from lapsing into sensational melodrama or lurid allegory. Her descriptions of torture, though vivid, are not gratuitously violent. A few small complaints included some contrived dialogue and Parviz's annoying self-pity, but critics agreed that these do not detract from an otherwise "powerful, timely book" .