Naghdi’s razor-sharp account of the complex inner lives of her protagonists and her poetic rendering of the rich Persian literature make for an intense read…
“That I can be with you, you, all of you,
And if life repeated a thousand times,
Still you, you, and again, you.”
Lili Naghdi’s debut novel is rich, emotionally urgent portrayal of a woman’s life and the two love stories that mark it along with the exploration of the rich Persian Literature. After completing her surgery residency, the narrator Dr. Rose Hemmings decides to travel to Iran to learn about her birth parents. Secretly in love with Dean, a damaged man who is struggling with chronic depression and unable to reciprocate her feelings, Rose meets handsome Siyavash, his cousin, in Iran and their lives become intertwined. In a sure, accomplished prose, Naghdi parse the delicate feelings of being in love and beautifully describes the way love makes a person helpless. But more than that, Naghdi’s special gift to readers is her depiction of Rose’s life, especially the two love stories that mark it. Her description of the feverish period of Rose’s early life in New York and Paris and the restlessness, the trepidation, the hopelessness that accompany it, is both tender and sensual. The intrigue, the confusion, and the sweeping passion that eventually becomes a part of Rose’s stay in Iran are depicted beautifully. The years of Rose’s blissful, intense marriage are as impressive as the early heartbreaking years of her hopeless love. With an eye for emotional and moral ambiguities, Naghdi successfully creates winning characters: Siyavash, the ultimate lover—dashing, charming, and incredibly sexy with a real hero’s demeanor, is endearing. He has more than charm and dash—he is as selfless as one can be; Dean is more an antihero than a hero (for the most part at least), but equally charming; Rose is impressive. Naghdi handles the book’s pacing and tone with accomplished skill. However, the intensity of Dean’s passion (in the last part) is an echo of Siyavash’s passion and seems a bit over the top considering the two men are entirely different people. But that’s a minor flaw. The satisfying denouement is utterly beautiful and will make Rose’s love story stay in the reader’s heart for long. The inclusion of the English translations of the great ancient and modern Persian poetry will delight morally serious literature lovers. Naghdi has created a fascinating love story that seems both traditional and contemporary at the same time.