I first heard about this book from Bethany and Dar and immediately after reading their reviews I put the book on my wishlist and shortly after ordered it from Amazon. And on my floor this book has patiently been sitting for months. Oh the life of a book addict. :) Gotta have it now so that I can read it later…you know you do it too…
The Septembers of Shiraz takes place in the early days of the Iranian Revolution (1981) and is centered around the Amins, a wealthy Jewish family. Parvis, the elder son, is living in New York City to attend school, but the rest of the family is trying to survive among the political and religious upheaval in Tehran. Isaac, the patriarch, is arrested and taken away to a terrible prison. It seems his crime is living a prosperous life and possibly his Jewish connections to Israel. In his absence, Farnaz, his wife, and Shirin, his young daughter, do what they can to protect their family and safeguard their lives.
I was truly swept away by this book. It is incredibly fast-paced and easy to read, but at the same time Sofer forced me to slow down and really take in what was happening to the Amin family. Each chapter focuses on one of the four characters–Parvis in New York, a non-practicing Jew who falls in love with a Hassidic neighborhood girl; Isaac in prison, not knowing what his crime is or if he will ever see his family again; Farnaz trying to hold together the household when her life has become so uncertain and she doesn’t know who she can trust; and little Shirin who doesn’t quite understand the new rules of her new world.
Sofer gives her readers a lot to contemplate in this debut novel. I dont’ think I’ve read any accounts of Jewish people in Iran, so it was an interesting perspective–especially while imprisoned, Isaac is trying to come to terms with the differences in his beliefs and the Muslim beliefs. Last year I read My Father’s Paradise, a non-fiction book about the author’s Jewish family in Iraq. The book talked a lot about the treatment of Jews after Hussein’s rise to power, and I would highly recommend to those interested in the topic. Along with different religious themes, Sofer also tackles the subjects that the revolutionaries grappled with–education, treatment of women, wealth–what makes a person worthy and who decides what is worthy.
The simple and flowing style of Sofer’s writing made it a pleasure to read, and while the subject matter is oftentimes heartbreaking I didn’t feel like the events were ever sensationalized. For the most part the book is very introspective and contemplative, something that I look for in books. If I had a complaint about this one, it would be that it was too short. It seemed that everything happened so quickly and I only got to know the characters a little bit; the story of Parvis in New York was especially underdeveloped. All in all, though, I would definitely recommend this book. I’ll definitely be looking forward to future books by Sofer.