In her first novel, The Septembers of Shiraz, Dalia Sofer examines the life of a wealthy, Jewish family living in Iran after the revolution. Isaac Amin, a gem trader, has been taken prisoner and accused of being an Israeli spy. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the four Amin family members – Isaac, his wife Farnaz, their son Parviz who is studying architecture in America and their daughter Shirin. As the novel progresses each of the Amins struggle with loss, whether it’s Isaac’s freedom, Farnaz’s husband and sapphire ring, Parviz’s financial support or Shirin’s friends. Here is an excerpt from Shirin:
“Do you believe in ghosts?”
“Ghosts? I don’t know. My father always says shahidan zendeand-martyrs are alive.”
“No, I’m serious. Things are disappearing in my house.”
“Disappearing? You must have misplaced them.”
“Yes, probably.” It occurs to her then that her father, too, has simply been misplaced, and that he will one day be returned to his rightful place, in his leather chair in the living room, with his books and cigarettes, sipping the tea that her mother will serve him from the silver teapot, the sapphire ring back on her finger.
You feel the tension of post-revolutionary Iran in the daily acts of Sofer’s characters. You never know when sympathy or cruelty is going to win out.