Cover Image: A DOOR BETWEEN US

A DOOR BETWEEN US

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is a tenderly-told, modern story of Iran that deserves wide attention.

Sadr offers a glimpse into two families in present-day Tehran -- one more traditional that supports the government and another more revolutionary that support democratic reform -- told through the lens of one couple's marriage. The novel begins with Sarah and Ali's wedding, yet moves quickly into the wider story of a country split between those fighting for things to stay the same versus those fighting for change, and the personal toll that results.

I loved how each chapter was introduced by a news clip, taken from actual events during the Green Revolution in 2009. These set the scene and provided wider context for the very personal stories that unfold.

Though it would be tempting to look at these two families and Iran in general as either black or white, good or bad, Sadr reminds us throughout that it is not that easy.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Iran, current events, historical fiction and family sagas.
Was this review helpful?
What a riveting story about a part of the world I didn't know much about. It really opened my eyes to Iranian politics and culture, drawing us deep into the lives of Sarah, Sadegh and Azar. There were many tense moments that had me on the seat of my pants, at once fascinated and horrified by what was going on. A stunning debut!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy!

Now available. 

In the midst of political unrest after the 2009 Iranian election, Sarah sets out to marry Ali. Little does she know the series of events that will unfurl from that catastrophic night. Dramatic and humanizing, Ehsaneh Sadr's A Door Between Us is a balancing act between the constant threat of political work in the Middle East and the humdrum of every day life in a bustling urban town. With an ever expanding cast of characters, the tales soon become intermingled and difficult to keep track of. And yet, the juxtaposition of the two creates some of the stronger moments in the book for me as a reader. In a way, it's like drinking a long hot cup of chai during a lazy afternoon with your closest sisters and aunts. There's a central plot somewhere but it's the underlying threads that draw more pleasure and attention. At times, the conversations get a little bit too meandering even for me, and perhaps the book could have done with some more editing especially in the beginning. Nonetheless, it does pique and maintain interest fairly well and by the end you find yourself rooting for a happy ending.
Was this review helpful?
“I wrote A Door Between Us to make it harder to bomb Iran.” - Ehsaneh Sadr

I already had this book on my TBR, but when I read that statement I decided to bump it to the front of the list. 

I didn’t know what to expect from A Door Between Us. As a debut, there weren’t any other books by the author I could compare it against. All I really knew was the setting and backdrop: the aftermath of the 2009 Iranian election. The Green Wave or Green Movement was completely new information to me; I had never heard of it before. For anyone else who’s going into this book without much background knowledge or that’s unfamiliar with Iranian customs, I’m happy to report that you do not need any of that before beginning. Sadr weaves history and context into any situation that calls for it, so there won’t be any frantic Googling to understand what’s happened. 

The novel starts at the wedding of Sarah to her husband, Ali. Tensions have been bubbling in the months leading up to it, and they eventually spill over during the ceremony. Ali’s sister, Azar, and her husband, Ibrahim, are actively speaking against an authoritarian government, while Sarah’s family are loyalists to the current leadership. Her cousin, Sadegh, is even a member of the Baseej, a state-sanctioned policing force that is known for operating outside of the law.

Iran is a country that almost every American ‘knows‘, but without actually knowing much of anything about. What we know is that they’re a country that the US has almost constant friction with. The mindset that we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys is a hard one to break out of. But part of what struck me the most in this book was how, well, familiar a lot of the conflicts felt. The protesting against a corrupt regime, political disagreements tearing families apart, so much of what I read about Iran in 2009 echos what’s happening in the US in 2020.  

The Hojjati family, in particular, is so reminiscent of nearly every conservative religious family I’ve encountered, regardless of faith. They were an incredibly frustrating group of people to follow. There’s of course the members of the family who are true-believers in whatever the cause may be, but then there are those who somehow think that these topics have nothing to do with them. They are so insulated from the realities of the world that they assume by just keeping to themselves and not speaking up, they’ll magically be immune to its effects. There are no bystanders in a revolution. By not ‘choosing a side’, they are in fact supporting those currently in power.

Eventually, though, everyone is pulled into a high-stakes chain of events that can’t be deterred. Family ties and loyalties are tested, and not everyone makes it through to fight another day. The pacing is taut. Though not a thriller, there’s ample tension and action. I felt anxious for characters who were suddenly thrust into a dangerous situation. It wasn’t lost on me that these characters, though fictional, are likely rooted in the experiences of real people.

I think with A Door Between Us, Ehsaneh Sadr succeeds in her goal. Bombing Iran doesn’t hurt the people that our leaders think it does. That show of violence only reinforces the narrative of the Iranian government—that all Americans want to do is destroy them. Hopefully by better understanding one another, there may be more opportunities in the future to heal and move forward.
Was this review helpful?
Wow.  Sadr has brought Iran to life in this novel that starts with the wedding of Sarah and Ali and spirals into the unrest and chaos of the 2009 election.  Sarah and Ali's families have different perspectives and the Green Wave.  Sadagh, Sara's cousin, supports the government and theocracy, while Ali's sister Azar wants to see democracy- and those who were actually elected put into office.  Nothing is clear cut, everything is debatable, up to and including Sarah's humane decision to help someone.  2009 seems very long ago - there's been much water under the bridge since then- but that summer and the Green Wave still echoes.  If you don't know much about modern Iran, this might be an eye opener.  It has lessons too for parallels worldwide.  Great characters and storytelling, along with strong plotting make this an excellent read.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  Highly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
I love love loved this book! I read an interview where the author said she wanted to take the reader inside an Iranian family, to help us develop empathy for a culture, and for characters living a world outside our own, and in my opinion she 100% achieved this!

The author has one of those unique talents where she is able to make us feel empathy for both sides. I cared so much about the characters, two families split apart by their political beliefs during the Green Wave protests following Iran’s election in 2009.

What shone through more than anything was each character’s common humanity in dealing with a core dilemma: balancing what you see as right at a political and national level with making the best decisions for the safety and protection of your loved ones.
Setting the conflict around a forbidden marriage, and re-found family just serves to up the conflict. But what I loved the most was the author’s ability to absorb me into a world in which I’m unfamiliar. I may never worry about my chador being too slippery, or be unfamiliar with Iranian wedding traditions, but after this book I feel a step closer to understanding and caring about a culture and nation that can sometimes seem inscrutable. All my congrats to the author on achieving such a feat! This is a real page-turner where you care about each and every character.
Was this review helpful?
I wasn’t certain what to expect from this book. It wanders for a while, changing focus from humorous wedding-related shenanigans then to the crackdown on dissidents. It was hard to keep reading. But about halfway through the novel, the story found its focus with Azar and Saregh’s conflicts, and I enjoyed it.

CHARACTERS

The book uses multiple points of view, all in third person, though the main narrators are Sarah, Azar, and Saregh. At times the number of names was overwhelming until I figured out all the relationships between people. (It’s a bit like a family reunion!) The book gives us a list of characters at the beginning, which is helpful.

This is a diverse cast of characters. Government loyalists. Dissidents. Oblivious bystanders. Insiders, both knowledgeable and ignorant. Those who practice religion from a heart of belief, those who question and doubt religion, and those who exploit religion for their own self-gain. All human: flawed, frail, and beautiful.

Sadr shows the post-election events from multiple perspectives, slowly revealing the many facets of this culture and the events following the election. While certain characters may view other characters as “enemies”, I didn’t view any one as being completely right or wrong. They are all flawed, which makes them relatable.

There was one character I had problems with: Azar

She is a central character, and I appreciated her views on women’s rights (or lack of) in this culture. She’s a hero for helping women get justice in a legal system that’s weighted against them.

Unfortunately, I found Azar tiresome and annoying, especially when she jumps to conclusions that are unfairly suspicious of others. (For example, she believes–with little evidence–that her long-time employee is spying on her and is involved with her brother’s arrest. There are other examples, too.)

Saregh, too, often jumps to conclusions about other people, often insisting that injustices must be “misunderstandings”. I found myself wondering if he was willfully blind or unintentionally ignorant. However, as the book continued, I found myself drawn to him. He wrestles with many of the major issues central to the story, and I always appreciate characters who grapple with complex moral ideas.

I enjoyed the minor characters far more than the major ones. Aunt Mehri, the matriarch of Sarah’s family, is a more complicated person than she initially appears. Her relationship with her children is fascinating. I especially enjoyed the parts about Ganjian, Sadegh’s former high school teacher, now his dear friend and a Basij leader. I wish the book went deeper into his character arc; there seems to be a great deal more to his story than the book explores.

CULTURE
I’m not Iranian, nor have I been to Iran. But I’ve known Iranian immigrants in America; Sadr’s representation of the country reflects my friends’ stories about their home country. The book felt accurate in its portrayal. (Of course, I can’t really vouch for the accuracy from a first hand perspective.) Sadr does a great job recreating the complex and sometimes contradictory aspects of Iranian culture.

The wedding scenes, in particular, are well-written and show the cultural traditions in sometimes humorous, sometimes serious ways. The descriptions of the food are mouth-watering! The emotions and family interactions felt genuine. Who hasn’t attended a wedding with a family in conflict?

The riot police crackdown on the protesters is frightening. I felt the bewilderment of onlookers and participants alike.

And the torture scenes will disturb anyone with a moral conscience. (Most of my reading is suspense/crime fiction, and I did not find the torture scenes to be excessively graphic by that genre’s standard.)

I particularly liked the background on the Iranian election, which I knew little about, and how Iranian leaders interpreted the U.S. support for the Green Movement. Sadr doesn’t take a side. Instead, she shows the multiple views of these events.

The book grapples with some weighty issues. Saregh, in particular, wrestles with questions about the justice system. Is it morally good? What happens if a bad person gains power within an otherwise good system? How do we recognize this corruption if it happens–and stop it before it harms others? If someone gives an unjust order, is it morally justice to disobey that order?

SOME FRUSTRATIONS
My first frustration was the book was how much telling, rather than showing, occurred. It irritated me to be blatantly told–not shown–that a character feels fear, hatred, love, and so on. It felt unsubtle and unnuanced. For me, this type of telling spoiled the small interactions (and a few big, significant ones) between characters.

Another main frustration was the narrative flow. Many chapters open several days/weeks after the previous chapter’s events. (I have no problem with that provided it is handled well.) The scene starts. But it’s a “throwaway scene”: the character does some unimportant thing–drive a car, file papers, etc.–while remembering all the events between the two chapters. It gives the narrative a jerky start-stop feeling: hop forward, hop back, hop forward again. . . .

RECOMMENDED
Overall, this is a good book. There’s enough complexity here to make for a satisfying read. While I wouldn’t characterize this as a page-turner–especially compared with my usual reading–there are some breath-taking, heart-pounding moments towards the end and a gut-wrenching climax. The resolution is unexpected, but appropriate.

As I turned the last page, satisfaction spread through me. These characters will live on past that last page, different now than they were on page one. In my imagination, they live their lives much as I live mine and as all humans live their short lives: one breath at a time, knowing that each one is a gift to treasure.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. This will appear on my blog in early September.
Was this review helpful?
I haven't read very many books by Iranian authors, so I was very excited to read this one. I loved the relationship between the two main characters. At times the book was a bit dramatic, I can easily see this being turned into a TV show! However I felt like this book didn't really keep my interest for long, I kept putting it down and then not having any motivation to pick it back up again. That might be because of the writing or some subplots in the book that I felt a bit iffy about.
Was this review helpful?
Intense political drama, and complex family commitments come together in this tantalising work of fiction circling the Green Wave movement in Iran. 

Sarah's conservative family agrees to her wedding with Ali, against the wishes of the matriarch supreme. Both families stand on divided political grounds. As the newly weds are heading to their dream house, the are rendered late by a protest. This chance meeting turns out to be the loose thread that unfurls the picture perfect canvas of their lives. 

This book is a fine example of the political becoming personal. The image of a nation trying to preserve it's sovereignty against foreign influences, and the youth it pummels into enthusiastic responses who carry out the often dirty task in the self assurance of one carrying out a divine mission. 

The easy flowing narrative makes the reading swift, while the half obscured narration keeps you hooked, asking for more. The characters are crafted so as to appear real, and there is a sense of something lurking in the shadows, the imagery of the uncertainties of real life.
Was this review helpful?
A DOOR BETWEEN US is a stunning novel about finding love, navigating hardships, seeing commonality when you disagree about deeply important things, and turmoil in our communities. One of the reasons I was so drawn to ADBU was that I don't think I've read nearly enough books set in or about Iran and featuring Iranian people and voices. Ehsaneh Sadr did a remarkable job telling the story of Sarah, Ali, and their families. Sarah and Ali are newly married as the 2009 Green Wave elections in Iran take place, and their wedding, subsequent actions, and new perspectives trigger a chain of events that has the potential to be revolutionary - and dangerous. 

I was captivated truly every page of this book. Sadr's voice comes through clearly, but the characters and their experiences and inner voices flow seamlessly; I was never once abruptly taken out of the novel because something didn't fit quite right or seem natural. I also really appreciated, and do in general, that, although there is some level of trauma and deep injustices happening in Iran and to its people, there is also a levity and humor included in ADBU. That's how we really operate as humans who live in community, so I think it's always such an honest and even more raw and vulnerable - and strong - way of portraying characters to portray ALL of them, not just the sides that are too precious for humor or any levity. Alongside that levity, though, is some much-needed education for the reader on the realities of politics in that era; I remember some of the headlines vividly, but I know I didn't dive deeply enough into the context back then. I'm grateful to Sadr for providing me with a jumping-off point to learn more about it now. 

One really important facet of this book is the language. There are Farsi words scattered throughout the novel, and it sounds like a native speaker would. This is a really impactful tool in centering the Iranian person's experience and perspectives, and it worked beautifully. I also found the family chart at the beginning very helpful; it would be a lot easier to flip back and forth to in a physical copy, but that's certainly not anyone's fault!

Overall, this is a sweeping debut novel about equality, whose voices get heard, what makes a person family, and all of the things that bind us despite our differences. I can't recommend A DOOR BETWEEN US highly enough! Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this advance copy. It was a delight!
Was this review helpful?
´Their greatest success is when they can destroy a people from the inside and make them turn on themselves and forget who they are´.



Set against the background of the protests of the 2019 Green Movement in Iran, A Door Between Us by Ehsaneh Sadr is a page turning story of survival in what looks like neverending times of religious dictatorship. 

For the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overturned the dictatorship of the Shah with a theocracy, millions of people, mostly youngsters, were on the streets of Tehran and main cities to protest against what they considered the stealing of their vote. In the presidential elections, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner against Mir Hossein Mousavi despite verified claims of electoral fraud. Although Ahmadinejad was confirmed for a second mandate and Mousavi and his wife is since then under house arrest, and thousands of people were arrested and tortured, the scream "Where is my vote?" was a serious warning that young middle class people were having enough of the a situation that since then become worse.

Those challenges for the Islamic Republic are reflected in A Door Between Us through the interactions and serious challenges the main characters are going through. It starts with - for me, the unlikely - marriage between Ali and Sarah. I said unlikely because I have some doubts that people with such a different social and intellectual background in Tehran may ever accept to an arranged marriage. Another detail from the book that I´ve found a bit forced is the fact that the Basiji abusive interrogator Heydari beats Azar, a human rights lawyer with a copy of Karl Popper´s The Open Society and Its Enemies (a title very popular in Iran and adapted to the Iranian realities by religious intellectuals). But those are really details, because what really kept me highly interested is the ways in which the chain of events involving the characters was skilfully built as well as the dramatic changes the characters are going through.

Take, for instance, Sadegh, the member of the paramilitary Basij forces - which were attributed many abuses against the protesters. Based on his religious credo, he believes that the protesters are a threat to the Islamic Republic. He thinks: ´Yes, perhaps our government makes mistakes but what these people are advocating - overthrow of the government - will only lead to chaos and subjugation to the West´. But once he is able to see with his own eyes the extent of the abuses, until the end of the novel he changes his mind and can even critically assess the blind attitude of his wife, Sumayeh. What happen to most of the people in the book is to discover their genuine humanity and solidarity, no matter their degree of observance and social background. 

And there are so many other questions raised that do affect people living under opressive regimes all over the world, like for instance, how far can you get with your fight for the truth? Is it worth to put your family and children under risk for freedom? Indeed, your fight will, if successful, also guarantee a different future to your children, but what if the fight will fail. One goes to Evin prison - a detention site for political prisoners in Tehran -, separated from his or her children, endures torture and interrogations and how can you change the system from there? A former political dissident told me long ago that when the gates are closing in the front of you and your freedom is stolen from you, different ethical standards apply. 

A Door Between Us is emotionally and intellectually heavy. I particularly appreciated that the book does not have a thesis or is trying to convene a political message. Instead, it explores how historical events influence the life of simple people, which makes it a valuable contribution to the Iranian disapora literature.
Was this review helpful?
Too many characters. The character page is awesome to go back to and refer but sucks on ebook. I’ll be buying the the physical copy to get a better understanding.
Was this review helpful?
A Door Between Us is a poignant yet heartwarming reflection on the importance of breaking down barriers in an increasingly polarized, politicized world. It's a contemporary novel that will remain relevant and inspiring for many decades to come.

You can read my full review on https://readingundertheolivetree.com/2020/07/13/hope-and-resistance-a-door-between-us-by-ehsaneh-sadr-coming-september-1-2020/
Was this review helpful?
This book was very engaging and thought provoking. I could not stop reading it once I started. 

Set in 2009 Iran, it takes place right after the elections in the country which caused a lot of problems and dissonance for many people. Sarah and Ali were engaged before everything happened, and their families are each on the opposite end of the spectrum for the political leanings. The book opens with the wedding, despite the fact people had not wanted them to be married in the first place. This is not western culture and setting, and I think doing outside research helps to understand why this is book resonates so strongly. There is a lot of explanation and background, but I thought it was very helpful for the book and the setting to really get a feel for what the conflict was like. The book is well written and very realistic. No one is perfect, but the story shows how the election impacted the society and how they are living with the aftermath in daily living. I thought this book was super well written, and I could not stop reading until the ending.
Was this review helpful?
An engaging story about two Iranian families who come together during turbulent times in Iran, despite the many secrets and lies that persist around each of their family members.  References are made throughout the story regarding the 2009 election and the many protests and demonstrations that take place as a result.

A Door Between Us is well-written and interesting. The individual characters are intertwined in such a way that made the book insightful and believable. I admired how the author also included characters who were true activists wanting to help their country, while also ending human rights abuses.
Was this review helpful?
This is my debut novel that I accidentally requested on NetGalley and then need to review so my review average improves! :)

It is an incredible thrill to have this book and these characters out in the world. There are few other works of fiction that represent such a diverse cast of Iranians, including both supporters and critics of the current government. Introducing these new voices and giving audiences an opportunity to relate to (and even cheer for!) people they wouldn’t otherwise get to know is what drives my writing.

If you’re interested in exploring a new and different part of the world through the vehicle of a page-turner, A Door Between Us is a good fit. It will also appeal if you like having your assumptions challenged and are open to learning how people who seem so different are actually exactly the same.

All my characters are based on compositions of people I’ve met or read about. Azar represents the thousands of brave activists and protestors who’ve fought for truth and justice in the face of forces determined to stamp them out. Sadegh represents sincere regime supporters struggling to reconcile their understanding of Islam with the misdeeds of their rulers. And Sarah represents the complex interplay of innocence and complicity in those who close their eyes to injustice as they are caught up in their own lives and dramas.
Was this review helpful?
In the beginning it took me a bit to get into the book but then I was hooked! Reads like a historical novel into modern day Iranian politics with two families with opposing views. Intriguing, and an open window into another culture. More than anything I think it is a family saga, and love story . Great characters that kept me guessing of their intentions. There were Farsi words embedded in context throughout that anyone can understand. I look forward to more books from this author. Definitely a must for readers looking for a multicultural book at its source.
Was this review helpful?
This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. So little is ever said or written about Iran, and that’s a tragedy. After the 2009 elections, many people took to the streets to protest the results. All decked in green hijabs, painted faces, clothes, and green fingers — thus the Green Movement was born. To be able to have a story told in a way that shows how everything impacts everyone in the country during that important time of Iran’s history, not just the supporters of the movement but everyone is important to see. It shows why everyone should care. Not just those who support or didn’t support the movement and, on a larger scale, why everyone around the world should care. The emotions are real, the people are real, and that doesn’t change no matter where in the world you are.

This book starts at a wedding between Sarah and Ali. Their families clash when it comes to political beliefs. This may not seem like a big deal but, as is often said amongst Iranians, when two people marry, it’s actually two families getting married. Everyone is involved, from the process before (the khastegari, which is briefly mentioned) to the exchanging of vows, and they’re forever intertwined. So this is a big deal. On their way back from the wedding, with all the streets a mess due to the protests happening post-election, Sarah makes a decision that impacts everyone in ways no one could ever imagine — she lets a protestor hide in the car her and Ali are driving in to get home from the wedding. Without giving too much of the plot away, we see how this one decision changes Sarah and Ali’s life, but their families as well. Sadegh, Sarah’s cousin, volunteers for the government that is trying to shut down or quiet down protests. Ali’s sister, a divorce lawyer who’s trying to make an even bigger difference than what she already does by saving women from abusive or awful homes, is also involved with the protests — she attends them, sometimes with her two children. And, much like how families marry each other during weddings, every small thing impacts families rather than individuals (Iranians are very family-oriented, it’s a blessing and a curse). We see how this one action leads to another and another and how lives are changed and beliefs are shaken. I love how, without giving spoilers, the story, while progressing and changing, also sort of comes full circle. 

Overall, this was an interesting read. I am in the unique position of having visited Iran and having actually been there during the Green Movement. A lot of things that went on in the book or just the cultural things that were mentioned made total sense to me or felt like a recap of things I’ve already seen. I’m not quite sure how but I do think it’s definitely interesting to read about. I loved getting to see little Iranian things — Sadegh cutting up fruit and tarofing (offering to those around him out of respect and expressing one’s love) it to everyone just because he himself wanted fruits. When the girl is standing in front of Sarah and Ali’s car on their way back from the wedding before Sarah decides to let her in and she’s becoming resigned to her fate of getting caught, she gives this slight nod in greeting when she catches their eyes. It’s such an Iranian thing it somehow made my heart melt and tear up a little. I wanted more of that. More of that magic, more of the things that make Iran and Iranians special (because oh boy does this show the bad things clearly). I feel like half the reason I was so intrigued was because I was homesick for my family and friends, for the streets of Iran. I wanted more of that Iranian feel, but the little gems I got were great.

Some things may have required a little more explanation for the people unfamiliar with Iranian words or culture. A lot of things aren’t translated (such as chador, sigheh, sofreh, fitneh, etc.). For me, someone who often speaks with a mix of both Farsi and English amongst close friends and family, this felt very authentic and flowed naturally (to the point where I might have missed a few) but for others, this may be an issue. Maybe a glossary or something at the end of the book (or a footnote at the bottom fo the page) would be helpful? Then, in contrast, some things were translated awkwardly within the text. This might be personal preference, but I think some things such as endearments might flow better if they were just left in Farsi and, once again provided as a footnote or endnote of some sort. I might be biased because I already understand what’s being said, but I think it flows and sounds a little better. It’s not really a big deal but just a little thing I noticed that made the writing feel a little choppy (imagine reading the same thing twice in a sentence — that’s essentially what it feels like when you can understand both languages). 

I appreciated how the author tries to tell the story without explicitly taking a side. There are good people, there are awful people, there are morally grey people, and there are those who are lost and trying to find their way (or those who purposefully remain lost because it’s safer). I wasn’t sure what to expect. There are some portrayals that had me wanting to bang my head against a wall in anger or annoyance because they seemed almost like caricatures they were so extremely awful but the truth is, these people do exist. I wish the opposite kind of person was also shown. Or more morally grey characters. My favorite character is the one I least expected and it’s because of the way they start off one way and then start questioning. I really enjoyed seeing that character’s trajectory and development. Whenever the story was focused around this character, it was really great to read. Most of my favorite parts were due to this character (I’m trying to be vague for the sake of spoilers, so you can appreciate the journey as well!) and I wish we could see more of that. I appreciated that while religion was a contentious topic, it wasn’t a question of whether or not religion is good or bad, but how the implementation was wrong. “ … true Islam was more easily found in America, where it was shorn of cultural influences that polluted its pure essence.” I loved that. I’ve seen this firsthand. I really appreciated that the book highlights that even a perfect system can be perverted by bad people. The question from there is — what now? And what’s the point? In which we got a response from an unexpected place.

“That’s what they want you to think… resistance isn’t only about pouring into the street. Their greatest success is when they can destroy people from the inside and make them turn on themselves and forget who they are. That’s what you need to resist!”

The whole time, I kept wondering who the main character(s) were. I went back and forth, thinking this book was going to be a love story set during the time of the Green Movement, but this was not that at all. It was more than that but I think in trying to tell all the stories at once, it kind of lost sight of it too. Or maybe that was the point, that despite a movement going on, life, too, goes on. I think the true gems of the book are Azar and the aforementioned character who grows. I loved when their paths crossed, I love how often their paths nearly crossed, and I really appreciate how much they both grew and strengthened despite how absolutely different their paths were. It was wonderful to see.

I found myself disliking (or flat out hating) many of the characters though. I have a note I wrote down as I was reading that says, and I quote “I basically hate everyone and don’t really find myself rooting for anyone besides Azar who I wish to see more of.” Any time other people were mentioned, I’d be so frustrated or angry I’d want to stop reading altogether sometimes (yeah, it got that bad at one point). I strongly disliked Sarah, who I found to either be too weak-willed at some points or overly strong-willed at others and instead of showing growth, because it goes so back and forth, it seems like an inconsistent character. I found her love for Ali to feel false and I so wanted to root for them! There is a misunderstanding that happens that I do not understand at all because of how easily it could have been avoided and it just … gets brushed over like it’s nothing when it really is a big deal. Also, at one point, it’s mentioned Sarah has a brother and I was completely in shock because the first I read of him was basically three-fourths of the way into the book, where it’s written she passes by his empty room. I think the fact that there were so many characters involved was important, but it also led to the detracting of the proper fleshing out of some. I’d really liked to have seen more of Azar’s husband Ibrahim because anything with him mentioned was also wonderful.

Please be aware that this story does contain a few scenes or mentionings of torture that were incredibly difficult for me to read. I can’t necessarily say they were excessive because I don’t think they were but it was just very hard to read, to the point where I shut my laptop and walked away for a bit. Maybe it’s because I saw these people as actual people? Either way, it’s not easy. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it kind of hits you at how awful it is and shocking because of how unexpected it is too. A side note that I don’t know where else to put — I’m not quite sure I understand the significance of all the quotes at the beginning of chapters. Sometimes I can sort of get the gist, I feel like the quotes were there to help set the tone, but I’d prefer a stronger tie-in if possible. 

Near the end, we get a quote I really appreciated. It’s mentioned lightly, almost in passing but it’s so important — “… the power to make choices carried with it the responsibility to deal with the consequences.” Another way this story comes full circle. Choices are important. Everyone makes choices in this book that impact others, some more important than others. Some seem so innocuous you think it not even worth mentioning until you see the ripple effect. Sarah let someone into their car and changed everyone’s lives. That choice was important. The choices others made were important. How they dealt with those choices is just as important, if not more so. That is what differentiates Sarah (and Ali) from a lot fo the other characters — there was no follow-through. But for the characters who did follow their choices all the way to their consequences, it was great to read and see.

Please note that I received an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this book and love how the title itself resonates on so many levels! The setting was intriguing, in 2009 right after a controversial election in Iran that set off a wave of protests. Sarah and Ali had been betrothed before the election, but their families were on opposite sides of the political spectrum and many in the family wanted to stop the wedding because of the conflict, but the opening scene is that wedding. Because the culture and setting takes some explaining for a western reader please give the story a couple of chapters to warm up. I was a little bit frustrated by the explaining at first but was grateful for the grounding as the novel progressed. GREAT tension, unexpected humour and interesting characters. I love how many of the characters are vividly portrayed in non-hackneyed way. I also love the fact that nearly everyone is flawed. Bravery and humanity come out in surprising ways and from unexpected people. More than anything this is a story of principled and smart women who may live in a patriarchal society but still hold many of the reins. Fast-paced with commercial appeal.

Thank you, #netgalley for the e-review copy.
Was this review helpful?