The Temporary Bride

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Member Reviews

Just a great read for summer!  I love these type of books! Here I thought only the Italian, French and Spanish (books by ex-pats living int hose countries) were entertaining! *Sigh* now Iran looks like fun, too. The book was a pleasant read and a quick one. What it really needed though, were recipes! Jennifer Klinec writes well, she should put a cookbook together of the foods in this book! They sound so appetizing!
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The beginning of this memoir feels a bit stilted but Klinec finds her footing in describing Iran.  I had hoped for more passages about the food (Klinec is at her best when describing food) but this is still a window into an often misunderstood culture.  It is a bittersweet tale; a nontraditional love story in an often repressed culture.  At times, Klinec feels removed from her subject matter and the ending is abrupt, but this is still an interesting read.
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I did not finish this book as I did not engage with this story at all.
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This book was not what i thought it would be. I picked it to read about the food and culture of Iran bit instead it was more about her romance. It was alright.
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This first-person story (which is a novel in the actual pages but listed as a memoir in the current marketing) seems written as the story treatment for a moody Miramax movie.  Daughter of Hungarian emigrants to Canada, the protagonist gives up a corporate job to open a London cooking school, and follows food to Iran in pursuit of new techniques and recipes.  Along with that, she begins an affair with the son of her hostess, a cultural clash which the Iranian family can only conceptualize by making her the titular "temporary bride."  The description of food is lush and immersive, but the relationship is predictably ill-fated, and the relationship (if this is a novel rather than a memoir), unnecessary when there is interesting cooking and culture.
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3 stars for the Love and 5 stars for the Food, plus descriptions of her time in Yemen and Iran.

I must confess that part of my interest in reading this book lay not just in my love of Persian food (so refined, such lush balance of flavors) but also because I knew and have even blogged about the practice of sigeh. Sigeh has been described as “legally wrap(ping) premarital sex in an Islamic cloak” and readers interested in a good source of information about this practice can read about it here. I wondered how a Western woman might even agree to such a thing and why.

I took my time reading the first part of the book because of the sensuous description of Middle Eastern cuisine. As anyone who enjoys Moroccan, Turkish, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Arabic or Persian food can tell you, the collision of flavors and textures is like no other and Persian food is near the top of my list on delicious cuisines. This part of the book flies for me, although as a memoir, I kept wondering about the degree of exaggeration in Klinec's descriptions of her travels as a youth. Nonetheless, I was struck by how brave, as an adult, in a post 9/11 world, she was to be traveling to places most Westerners would fear to go to; Yemen and Iran have such potent reputations to Westerners. And yet, Klinec has written a book that is less judgmental about the culture in these countries than many other travelers might. For this, I enjoyed the book and found it thought provoking. (Describing 15 year old Yemeni brides without making snarky comments about such a late marriage is a feat, for instance.) In any case, I greatly enjoyed the food and culture portions of this book. I wanted to know more about how Klinec came to speak Farsi and some Arabic. How long did she study them in London before embarking on these journeys?

My problem lies in the "Love" portion of this book, which left me feeling frustrated and extremely uneasy. When Jenny and Vahid first meet they don't like each other and the collision of their different cultures, especially with respect to relationships, is interesting and wholly expected. But what follows from there, how their relationship evolves, is not portrayed in a very flattering light to either of them. Like another reviewer below, I was simply astonished, if not horrified, when the author researches the penalty for extramarital sex (it's death by hanging, btw) and thinks, "oh, sure, let's go ahead and do that," with a man she wasn't all that sure she felt anything for and in whose home she had been a warmly received guest. Maybe it was easier for her to do this because she didn't like Vahid all that much? But she liked his mother who spent many days teaching her Persian recipes. How could Jenny contemplate thanking them this way? (An applicable word missing from her list at the end of the book might be taarof, which means proper respect for hospitality, both given and received.) It was up to Vahid to solve the problems, after the heat on the couple from the propriety brigade (the morality police and common families reporting them for fear of not reporting them and being seen near them as if approving of them) gets to a point where it is really unsafe. 

Let's be frank, as a Westerner, and a Canadian living in the UK, Klinec had a measure of governmental protection that Vahid and his family did not. She might go to jail but she would be a bargaining chip in some diplomatic negotiation. Vahid would end up dead, his family would lose their only son and might be shunned, as the family whose son had such bad judgment as to get himself executed. As for Vahid himself, Klinec's portrayal of him is that of a somewhat socially stunted man-adolescent, with the obvious sexual inexperience and seeming to yearn for a connection that is maybe more than sexual, all while still managing to insinuate that her sexual availability is one of Jenny's greatest attractions for Vahid. And out of this melodrama grows... Love? Well, that's what Klinec tells us. I'll admit I'm curious to know if they are still together in London and what Vahid thinks of the book.

The irony of this book's release on Valentine's Day is rich.
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I’m struggling to figure out what bothered me about The Temporary Bride.  It is a brief memoir written by the Canadian born author who travels to Iran for the purpose of learning about Iranian cooking but ends up in a forbidden love type of relationship. While learning to cook in the home of an Iranian woman, Klinec and the woman’s son fall into a clandestine relationship. There are things I liked about The Temporary Bride: Klinec’s description of her childhood as the child of immigrants in Ontario, her unconventional fearlessness, her love and description of food, and many of her descriptions of interactions with people in Iran. But there’s something that irked me about the relationship aspect of the book. While Klinec is very explicit about what happened between her and Vahid and she is clear about the risks they took and how their relationship contravened Iranian norms and laws, there is something naïve or arrogant about her attitude. If this was meant to be a book about the complexities of entering into a relationship across a huge cultural divide, there’s a whole piece missing about how big that divide is and the impact of that divide on Klinec, Vahid and Vahid’s family.  Rather, the story of the relationship between Klinec and Vahid has the feel of adolescent breathlessness – always searching for a place to be together away from scornful looks. But I think that my main reaction is that I would have preferred the book to focus on the food and cultural aspects of Klinec’s time in Iran. I loved her description of different dishes and how she spent time in the kitchen with Vahid’s mother learning how to cook. I didn’t care so much about her relationship with Vahid. In other words, a bit of a mixed bag of a book for me.  Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read a copy.
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Thank You to Twelve Books for providing me with an advanced copy of Jennifer Klinec's memoir, The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- Canadian Jennifer Klinec has always had wanderlust. She moves to London, working a high paying corporate job, yet she spends all of her money and time traveling, taking off to far-flung destinations every weekend. Another passion is Klinec's love of food. She makes a bold decision by quitting her job and marrying her passions; Klinec starts a culinary class in her home where she teaches exotic recipes from around the world to small groups of curious Londoners. As part of her on-going education, Klinec books a trip to Iran to learn about Persian cooking. Soon after she arrives, she meets a young man named Vahid. Vahid invites her to his home, where she cooks alongside his mother, learning family recipes.

Vahid and Klinec come from completely different backgrounds; they have differences in age, religion, culture...yet, they develop a romance. It is very dangerous for them to have an open relationship in Iran, and when keeping secret proves difficult, they come up with another possible solution, a temporary marriage. In Iran, they can arrange to be legally married for a pre-determined amount of time, which will allow them to be a couple until Klinec's visa expires. This solution should stop police harassment, but will also allow Vahid, an unmarried-virgin, to save-face in the eyes of his family and community. Can this arrangement really work?

LIKE - Klinec's memoir is half food-porn and half a love story. She has these lush sensory filled descriptions of food and cooking. Your mouth will water for things that you've never even heard of, let alone tasted. I have friends from Iran and I enjoy Persian food, but Klinec's memoir gave me a much deeper look into the country and its culture. I was mesmerized by all of the ingredients that are not normally used in American cooking, such as rose water and dates. On the flip side of this, there are also rather grotesque descriptions of a camel slaughterhouse. I was intrigued and repulsed at the same time. It made a big enough impression that after reading that chapter in afternoon, the beef on my dinner plate went untouched. Steel yourself. My biggest impression with food and Iran, is that it's a culture where things are still made by hand and with great care, the opposite to our fast-food/convenience culture in America. 

The love story was unexpected, even though it is stated right in the title of the book. I think it may have been unexpected for Klinec as well, as Vahid does not come across as an immediate romantic prospect. Their obvious differences aside, the initial impressions of Vahid are of someone who is moody and aloof, contrasting with Klinec's open and friendly demeanor.  The turning point comes when Vahid understands her love of food and delights in planning a day for her that is a food tour of his city. He is chivalrous and romantic. I felt the constant danger in their romance, such as when they are harassed by the police on multiple occasions, or when families picnicking in a park call the police, because a couple alone is a suspicious activity. Vahid's initial behavior becomes more clear as we learn more about his culture. Klinec speaks of many aspects of Iran that she loves ( stunning architecture, welcoming people, the food), but the fear is also always present.

From my western perspective, the idea of an official temporary marriage seems very backwards and outrageous, but I was mostly intrigued that this concept exists at all. There is a fear mentioned by authorities that Klinec has come to Iran to marry, and Vahid's parents, although they like Klinec enough as a visitor, are not happy with the relationship that has developed. However, once the temporary marriage has taken place, there is a resignation that their relationship, including sex, is acceptable. It wasn't easy for them to obtain this marriage, but I still wondered how it happened at all, or how common this even is in Iran? Vahid and Klinec end up marrying and living in London, but there was a chunk of time between their temporary and permanent marriages, how was Vahid impacted during this time? Love aside, if he had not continued his relationship with Klinec, would this have ruined his chances at a good marriage in Iran? Although Klinec felt some danger while in Iran, I think the bulk of the consequences fell on Vahid's shoulders.

DISLIKE- Perhaps only that I had those lingering questions about Vahid and the impact of the temporary marriage. I would have liked a statistical comparison to put the temporary marriage in context. Although the title of the book is The Temporary Bride, the portion dealing with the temporary marriage is relatively minor. Food is the real star of the memoir.

RECOMMEND- Yes, The Temporary Bride is a great pick for foodies and readers who love to be transported to different worlds. Klinec is a beautiful writer and has an unique story to share.
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A memoir from a Canadian women of Yugoslavian descent detailing her launch of a successful small cooking academy in her home to her travels to learn more about Iranian cuisine and her subsequent love affair with the son of the Iranian woman who is teaching her traditional recipes.

There was a lot of description of eating various parts of animals, mostly offal, and a focus more on the feelings evoked by home-cooking as opposed to the more technical aspects (not a recipe in sight), plus the book quickly devolved from a food memoir to a love story. I was intrigued by the aspects of Iranian culture Klinec was exposed to, especially in regards to women's issues and sex. I did not think Vahid (her lover) came off very well in the text and found her leap from sort of detesting him to secretly bonking him and searching for a mullah to temporarily marry them (title) a bit of a stretch.
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The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early January.

Klinec speaks of her free-range child, teen, and adulthood spent all around the world, seeking out authentic food experiences and cooking styles. Once she travels to Iran and meets the passionate, feeling man that is Vahid, the story evolves into a bittersweet, mercuric love story. A tale to feast on, for sure.
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