Rooftops of Tehran
Pasha and his best friend, Ahmed, spend a lot of time on the roof during the Iranian summer of 1973. It's the last summer of their youth, and for them, life is simple --- there are games to be played, girls to be admired, and the final year of school to muse over. Each night before falling asleep they name stars after friends and family, a ritual they've shared since childhood. This is also the summer when their lives will take a dramatic turn.
An older friend named Doctor, nicknamed for the fact that everyone thinks he is brilliant, comes by often and is a mentor of sorts to Pasha. Both are lovers of books and spend most of their time discussing literature and the occasional political thought, which Pasha admits are not his favorite discussions. Doctor is also the fiancé of Zari, Pasha's neighbor and the girl he has secretly been in love with for many years.
After a television broadcast of a trial and sentencing of several individuals the government has declared threats to society, the neighborhood is thrown into chaos when posters of a red rose appear on the alley walls. The rose is a symbol of one of the supposed terrorists sentenced on television. Pasha happens to be awake when the posters are being put up and knows Doctor is responsible, but says nothing. While Doctor has been outspoken concerning the Shah and the government, no one in the neighborhood is prepared for the violence that will ensue and what will happen in the coming months.
Shortly after the posters appear, Doctor announces he will be leaving to spend the remainder of the summer teaching farmers better methods and asks Pasha to take care of Zari. He leaves, and slowly the summer becomes one of sheer joy for Pasha when he is able to spend time with Zari, falling deeper in love with her and feeling guilty for loving the fiancée of a friend. Ahmed, also in love with a girl from a nearby alley, has his own love troubles to deal with, but his come in the form of older brothers and fists when Ahmed finds out that the girl he loves is to be married off.
One night, while Pasha is on the roof, the SAVAK, the secret police force that officially does not exist in Iran, descends upon the neighborhood and takes Doctor away. The arrest --- and its consequences --- throws Pasha, Zari and the neighbors into turmoil.
ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN is one of those rare books that stays with you long after the last page has been turned. It reminds us of the good and bad in life, that joy has a painful side, and that love comes in many forms. Pasha, whose mother believes he is an introvert and forces him to drink herbal potions to change that, has a quiet strength about him you cannot help but admire. His love for his family and friends is so strong it is heartbreaking for him. His need to help and to fight only makes the reader fonder of him.
Marvelous characters inhabit the book. They are loving family members we all know --- the mother who cares deeply for her child; the proud father who wants only the best for his son; the friend who is always by your side, not asking why you're fighting but standing next to you ready to land the next punch; and the love of your life, which can be heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same moment.
ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN is masterfully told. Author Mahbod Seraji seamlessly drops the reader right in the middle of the story. The emotions are so strongly rendered you'll feel as if you are these characters. He makes you laugh and cry at the same time remembering the joys of first love and the pain of loss. It's a fabulous read, and one that will stay with you for a long time.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on May 8, 2009
Rooftops of Tehran
- Publication Date: May 5, 2009
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: NAL Trade
- ISBN-10: 045122681X
- ISBN-13: 9780451226815