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Review & GIVEAWAY – Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

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.

rooftops of tehran

Rooftops of Tehran
by Mahbod Seraji
345 pages
Published May 5, 2009

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.ย  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.ย 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 anย 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.

Other reviews:

Savvy Verse and Wit

S. Krishna’s Books

Book Club Classics!

Devourer of Books

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!

| Tags: , 57 comments »

57 Responses to “Review & GIVEAWAY – Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji”

  1. Meghan

    This book sounds so wonderful. I’ve seen it on so many blogs and now I’d love to read it. I’ve never been on a roof, but only because they locked the way up by the time I got to the famous dorm with the easy access roof. We live in a ground floor flat at the moment, so no way for us to get on the roof here either!

  2. Pam R.

    I’m terrified of heights so spend much of my life avoiding roofs. I can recall being on rooftops twice however – once at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris when I was 16 and once at a friend’s house. It was winter and we were hanging out watching movies and stuff. A couple of hours later, we looked out the window and apparently the “light, fluffy snowfall” led to about 5 feet of snow outside. All the roads were impassable so since I couldn’t get home, we decided to jump off the roof into the snow.

    I really want to read this book. I know you weren’t completely thrilled with it, but it just sounds so fabulous that I’d love to give it a chance myself.

  3. Jenny

    I had my first kiss on the roof of the life science building at the local university – it used to be really easy to get up there at night. They’ve since locked all the doors, sadly…

  4. nikki

    I’d love to read this book, so enter me in the contest!
    My friend’s 2nd story bedroom window went straight onto the roof of their porch. So as a teenager, I spent many hours “sunbathing” (freckling, for me) on that rooftop. Also, I used to help my dad clean the gutters on our house, so I’d climb up on the roof for that. I love the view from a roof!

  5. Steph

    Great review, Trish! I’m a similar kind of reader – I rarely guess twists and surprises in books (I like to think it’s because I just get too swept up in the story to think ahead), and I find myself disappointed when I do! This doesn’t sound like one for me, but I really appreciated your thoughtful and balanced review!

  6. diane

    Yes, I’ve been on a roof as a child. I had a mean friend who gotme to climb a ladder to a low roof and when i was up there she took the ladder down….i screamed enough her mother came out to rescue me LOL

    dd DOT bookgoddess AT gmail DOT com

  7. Lindymc

    At one time we had a garage that was built into the side of a hill, and from one side you could just step onto the roof, while the other side was “roof-top” high. It was a fun roof to be on and feel high, yet safe. Thanks for the review and the giveaway.

  8. S. Krishna

    No need to enter me, but I know what you mean about this book. I liked it, but didn’t LOVE it. I’m not entirely certain why – maybe expectations were too high?

  9. Kristen

    This book intrigues me despite the lukewarm review.

    As for me being on a roof, is it cheating when I say yes because where I went to college, the chapel was 3/4 underground and you could walk onto the roof and sit on benches? ๐Ÿ˜‰ A roof way up high in the air though, never. I have a serious fear of heights.

    whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

  10. Valerie

    I’d love to see what I think of this book :-). Interesting review.

    Yes, I’ve been on a roof a few times– when my sister and I were teenagers we’d climb up on the roof of our house and sit there and gaze at the sky and talk (probably usually about boys). How did we get up there? Our house was a low-slung one-story with a very high wooden fence that abuted it….so we’d just climb up the fence and jump on the roof!

  11. Kathy

    I have been on a roof. When I was a child, a house in our neighborhood caught on fire. The family had to move out while their house was being repaired. For some reason, there was a big pile of sand at the back of the house at that time, and a bunch of us would go over, climb on the roof and jump into that pile of sand. I have no idea why we thought that was fun.

  12. Themis0307

    I’ve been on the roof several times, always to watch fireworks for the 4th of July. One of my sweetest memories is one 4th of July on the roof while I was in high school. My high school sweetheart and I were watching the fireworks show in awe and at one point I saw one that was particularly spectacular. I must have reacted to it audibly because my boyfriend leaned over and whispered, “Did you like that one?” I told him yes, I did. He put his arm around me and kissed my cheek and replied, “Then it’s yours.” It was silly, but at the time, my 16-year-old self thought it was the best, most romantic gift ever.

  13. Ronnica

    Sounds interesting. I always love reading books about Muslim cultures.

  14. Wanda

    When I was a young girl I used to always climb up the TV tower next to my parents’ house and get onto the roof of the house from there. I liked laying up there and reading books.
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

  15. Tam @ Bailey's and Books

    I have really ben wanting to read this book, and appreciate your review. It’s funny, I feel jaded in that I look for twists in books quite often (I tend to do that with movies too).

    And no, I don’t think I was on an actual roof, that I can remember.

    baileysandbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.


  16. bethany (Dreadlock Girl)

    I’ve been on a roof. When our little boys were babies and we didn’t want them to stay up, but we wanted to watch the fireworks we climbed up and watched them on the roof! It worked okay, not as good as up close though since our house isn’t that tall.

    Oh and in college we would go building climbing at Oregon State University….shhhh! It is not legal….and yes, it is a very dangerous and spiderman-like thing to do. I can’t believe I did it! Sometimes 10 stories high. (stupid. stupid)

    PS I’d love to win this read. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. bethany (Dreadlock Girl)

    I tweeted !!

  18. Debbie

    I have never been on a roof! I am so afraid of heights!


  19. rhapsodyinbooks

    I don’t think I’ve ever been on a roof. Also afraid of heights! Please enter me!

    nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

  20. Holly

    Thanks for such an honest, terrific review. This one sounds intriguing. Yes, I’ve been on a roof, just once I think. My parents were reroofing out house once. I hate heights though.

    I’d love to be entered.

  21. zibilee

    I’d love to be entered in this giveaway. And to answer the question, yes I have been on a roof. I climbed up the tree onto the roof one day when my parents were at work. I had trouble getting down, and was scared. I never did that again, and I wonder what made me do it in the first place.

  22. Mary

    My friends and I found the way up to a rooftop downtown once when we were in high school. We didn’t get to stay up there very long before the police came to law down the law.

  23. feener

    elementary school roof, climbed down and have a scar from it.

  24. Sandra K321

    I don’t think I’ve ever been on a roof, but I’ve always lived in the country so you don’t really need to be on a roof to enjoy the quiet and tranquility.

  25. Julia

    No, I’ve never been on a roof. I’m very scared of heights and the thought terrifies me.

  26. booklogged

    One of my favorite memories of being on the rooftop was in high school. (only a hundred years ago!) My boyfriend and I had been having an ongoing water fight for months. My parents normally would not approve of me “ruining the shingles” but they were my collaborators on this one afternoon. Said boyfriend came to pick me up for a picnic in the mountains. My father told him I was in the backyard. Mike came out looking for me and I threw a bucket full of cold water on him from the rooftop. Sad part is I missed. I paid for it later when he sat on me and slowly drained a cooler of cold water on me.

  27. Christine Barter

    Yes I have been on a roof and terrified every moment I was there, not daring to look up or down, just straight ahead petrified. Strangely though I love the lovely white clouds seen out of aircraft windows, and feel like I could float along on them.

  28. Eleanor

    I’m weighing in to plug the domed “living roof” at the new Academy of Sciences Museum in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Accessed by elevator, it is so beautiful up there it hurts. It feels like the breath of life. Planted with just seven drought-tolerant California natives, the roof teems with texture, color, wildflowers, birds and butterflies. It’s not scary at all on the walking platforms. I loved it so much, they had to drag me away.

  29. Amanda

    I have never been on a roof, nor do I really have any desire to do so.

  30. gaby317 @ Starting Fresh

    When I was younger, it was easy enough to climb to the roof of the garage from the side of the house. From there I’d climb to the higher parts of the roof and to different second story rooms. That was such a long time ago though!

    Now we just go to the roof deck of our condo, but that’s much easier and safer. Not half as exciting.

    Thanks so much for the entry!

    gaby317nyc at gmail dot com

  31. Christine W.

    I would love to read this book. Please enter me.

    Any time that I got locked out of my home growing up, I had to climb up the television pole, onto the roof, slide down to the fence, and then jump into the back yard. Needless to say, I didn’t forget my key very much.

    Thank you,


  32. Steph

    I recently bought this book — your review has made me even more eager to read it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)

    No need to enter me in the giveaway. I just wanted to drop by and say that I loved this book. It was a powerful read for me and had me totally absorbed from page one. I did know what the big surprises were, but that was okay with me. I’m one of those people looking to figure out what the surprises are ahead of time, but I really don’t mind if I know them before they are revealed. As long as I am wrapped up in the characters, their relationships, and more, I will love the book.

  34. Lisa

    In my younger days, before my phobia of heights kicked up, my friends and I used to crawl out onto the roof of a house they rented. Since we were likely to be drinking, that probably wasn’t the best idea!
    My book club is reading this book in December. I’ll be eager to see how many of them see the surprises coming.

  35. Beth

    Nope, never been on a roof for any reason! Thank goodness!

  36. bridget3420

    I’ve never been on a roof.

  37. bridget3420


  38. Barbara S.

    When I was growing up, our house had a garage that was built into the hillside that our house was built on top of. The garage roof was attached to our backdoor and had a metal railing around the sides of it. We always sat outside on top of this roof/deck during the summer months. Many family meals and barbecues were held on this roof/deck and have left many happy memories for me.

    I would love to read this book.

  39. Barbara S.

    I tweeted about this giveaway. Here is the link:

  40. Heather

    yes, I have been on a roof. When I was younger we used to watch 4th of July fireworks from a friend’s rooftop every year. I also used to lay on another friend’s roof in the summer to tan. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the giveaway, and great review.

  41. Bcteagirl

    The only roofs I have been on are the flat top kind, but I have been on a few of them!

  42. Bcteagirl


  43. Sue

    I’ve been on my own roof. A couple of years ago we had a black bear hanging out in the big spruce tree in front of our house and by climbing up on the roof, my husband and I could see the bear at the level she where she was hanging out. Crazy, I know. Thanks for sharing~

    smickelson1993 at yahoo dot com

  44. Rebecca Cox

    Being a construction manager, I have been on roofs of buildings all over the world. My favorite rooof was a condominium complex in Caracas, Venezuela on the side of a mountain. It had a wonderful view down a long valley and it was high enough to be shrouded in clouds many mornings. Another great one was downtown Atlanta. I have always loved to go to the roofs.

    rebecca dot cox at charter dot net

  45. Rebecca Cox
    Here’s my tweet!

  46. Kat C.

    Oh yeah, a lot of times. There’s a mango tree right beside our house which makes it oh so possible to climb on the roof. I read there sometimes ๐Ÿ™‚

  47. Mariag

    Nope I have never been on a roof mainly because I am terrified of heights.
    I have however heard wonderful things about this book and would love to read it.

  48. ellie

    I cannot take heights so forget about getting on a roof.

  49. veronica

    I think I’d really like to read this book so please enter me in your giveaway!!

    As for being on a roof…the only time I’ve really been on a roof, was the roof of one of my best friend’s house. We were both serving in a national service program where we all lived in the little village in Maryland. Our second day there the two of us discovered we could climb out her window onto the roof and sit and look over the whole village. It was a beautiful view and we sat up there for hours talking and smoking cigarettes. We thought we were so cool. ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. Ruth Ann

    I’ve spent a good amount of time on rooves (roofs?). I’ve done a lot of mission trips, service projects, Habitat for Humanity type projects and similar. And a part of those projects is often dealing with rooves. I’ve set trusses for the roof of a cabin in West Virginia. Retarred a flat roof and repaired a shingled roof in West Virginia. Shingled rooves in inner city Detroit and Atlanta. I’ve poored concrete rooves in Belize, Mexico and India. I know there’s more that I’ve done. Oh yeah, and I’ve watched 4th of July fireworks from rooves in downtown Fort Worth a couple of times.

    Thanks for the chance to win!

  51. Renee G

    I was on a roof when I was in college, but you couldn’t get me to go back up there.


  52. Hazra

    I’m interested in reading this book. As for being on a roof, yes, I have. My home is one with a nice big roof, and my hostel also has a roof where I sometimes go to watch the sunset.

  53. Jennifer

    This book sounds really great. One of the wonderful qualities of books are their ability to take you to place you have never been and this book seems to do a great job of doing that. I’m definitely entering this giveaway. To answer your question: No, I have never been on a roof. It’s something I don’t really think about (until now of course).

  54. Jennifer

    I also stumbled this post.

  55. Sarah Z

    Yes – I have been on a few roofs!

  56. Mystica

    No I have never been on a roof! its mainly tiles here and I would be the first to fall even if I attempt to get on to it!


  57. [TSS] Not-Quite-As-Large List of Book Giveaways โ€“ Aug 30

    […] Rooftops of Tehran, by Mahbod Seraji, at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? (ends Sept […]

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