I don’t know where I heard about this book, but I’ve had it on my BookMooch wish list for. ev. er. And it hasn’t come up for me to mooch, so I broke down and investigated this newfangled thing called a library, where you get to borrow books. For free! I know! Brilliant, right?! Someone should have thought of this like, oh, ten years ago.
The Blood of Flowers is about a 14-year-old girl in 1620 Persia. She lives with her family in a little village in the country and her parents are anticipating that she will soon be engaged. It’s at this time that her father gets sick while working in the fields and passes away, leaving his wife, Maheen, and daughter in a perilous situation. Even though they have a field that they work, without the husband to help harvest the field, they received very little grain from the father’s share of the planting. Rather than starve, they sent a message to the father’s half brother, Gostaham, who invites mother and daughter to come live with him in Isfahan.
The daughter, who is never named, has a skill of knotting rugs; though being a woman, learning more in this trade would be extremely difficult.
Gostaham does very well with his own rug making business and agrees to teach the daughter what he knows. Gostaham’s wife, Gordiyeh is demeaning and condescending to Maheen and her daughter, and they have no hope of escaping this situation without a dowry for the daughter. The daughter strikes a deal with Gostaham to make her own rug, and he loans her the money to buy the wool. The colors she chooses are not complimentary, and in a fit of frustration, she cuts up the progress she has made on the rug, wasting all the wool. She was going to sell the rug to start saving her own dowry, but now she’s incurred the ire of Gordiyeh.
At this time, the daughter gets a marriage proposal, but not for a typical marriage, for a sigheh, which is kind of like renting a wife. Legally, they would be married for the length of the sigheh, in this case, three months, but after the three months, the man can either renew the sigheh or not. This makes the daughter almost worthless, as once she agrees to the sigheh, she not only has no dowry, but she’s lost her virginity as well.
After one renewal of the sigheh, the daughter decides she must take her fate into her own hands or she will be dependant on the whim of others for the rest of her life. So she does! Take her fate into her own hands, that is. And while I won’t give away the ending, let me just say that I was guessing what the ending would be up until the very last pages. I love it when books do that.
The daughter is headstrong, and even though she learns from each mistake, she continues to make bad decision after bad decision. I loved this. So real! How many of us have had our AHA! moment after our first mistake (most likely none of us), and how many of us have had our AHA! moment after making lots of mistakes, some of them mistakes we’d already made, while simultaneously listening to someone say (while wagging their finger), “I told you so!” If you’ve ever had a hard time learning a lesson, you’ll understand the daughter’s impetuousness, all the while cringing at mistakes you probably would have made yourself.
I really enjoyed this book. At first I thought it was “simple”, but as I dug a little deeper in order to write this review I realized there is a lot going on under the surface, and I think this book would benefit from a discussion on the author’s leaving the protagonist nameless, the culture, the Iranian stories told throughout the book, the various relationships the daughter has, the idea of a sigheh, the book’s title, sexual satisfaction, and really anything else that a book club could discuss. Reading it for myself (as opposed to a book group), I tend not to take such a deep look at a book, but rather, enjoy the story and get immersed in the book, which this book allowed in spades.
Rating: 88 out of 100