The winner was #47, which was Mariag! Congratulations! I’ve emailed you for your mailing address. I hope you enjoy the books! Comments are now closed.
Last year I met Mahbod Seraji at Book Group Expo and he told me he would soon be having a new book coming out. I found out that the book was coming out in May and made sure to buy a copy of his book, Rooftops of Tehran, right away.
Rooftops of Tehran is about Pasha, a 17-year-old boy who lives in Tehran. He’s a regular boy who likes girls…okay, one particular girl, soccer, books, and looking at the stars. He can usually be found in the summer hanging out on the roof of his house, oftentimes accompanied by his best friend Ahmed. The two friends talk about girls, philosophy, and the state of their country. Ahmed is the goofy, joking one and Pasha is the serious, bookish one. Both boys fall in love around the same time, but Pasha falls in love with his neighbor, Zari, who is already engaged. Over the course of the summer of 1973, the boys become good friends with Zari and Faheemeh, the girl Ahmed has fallen for. Their friendships are innocent, but an event happens that changes all of their lives.
I loved that the sense of place was very strong. The author uses scenes to illustrate and describe Persian people and culture, making the story come to life.
“Mourning has become a very important aspect of our culture….When our child is butchered in front of our eyes, we bawl as if our soul wants to escape our body. When we’re violetntly wronged, we shriek. That’s the gift of history to us, son….Our only recourse in the face of unpardonable evil has been to wail inconsolably. I think, even now, we unconsciously identify death with oppression.”
That’s the way of the Persians — we are masters in the art of implication, sometimes at the cost of the point getting lost on an unsophisticated listener. Facts seldom matter. The meaning and the message are always woven into the fabric of our discourse.
The author found his stride partway into the book, as Ahmed really became more vivid and real.
I thought the friendship between Pasha and Ahmed was well developed. You could see their friendship strengthen over time as they dealt with very adult issues.
There’s a lot going on in this story, between Pasha and Ahmed’s friendship, the love Pasha has for Zari and the love Ahmed has for Faheemeh, the relationship the boys have with their families, how families deal with the death of a child, the various ways you can love someone, and how the Persians as a culture deal with death and loss, as well as how they dealt with displaying their displeasure with the Shah.
The story was very sweet, but I didn’t love it. I was disappointed to find that I could predict the two major surprises in the book. For me, this meant the author was too heavily hinting at what was coming. I want to be surprised! I’m what you might call an ignorant reader: I can’t usually figure out the ending ahead of time, and I rarely try. But I was able to figure it out in Rooftops of Tehran, so the author was a little heavy handed with the foreshadowing.
So here’s my dilemma: did I not like the story because I found it too predictable, or was there another problem with the writing that I can’t quite pinpoint? To be honest, I’m not sure. I will, however, be looking for Mahbod Seraji’s next book, as I really think his storytelling ability will get honed and sharpened.
Rating: 79 out of 100
Visit Mahbod Seraji’s website.
Now for the giveaway! I have one copy of Rooftops of Tehran to give away, courtesy of Mahbod Seraji and Penguin! To enter the contest, just answer this question:
Have you ever been on a roof?
For +1 additional entries each, you can tweet or stumble the giveaway. Just make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. This contest will close September 6, 2009 at 11:59pm PST. Good luck!