Marjan Kamali comes to the blog with an atmospheric tale of love under duress, loss and reconciliation in
The Stationery Shop
A story told over 60 years, the earliest introduction to Roya is as a high school girl living in 1953 Tehran. She, her sister, mother and father live a comfortable, if fairly modern life: her father wants his girls to be highly educated and successful, dreaming of the opportunities afforded by their forward-looking Prime Minister as he tries to bring a more democratic government into power, with opposition from the Shah’s supporters, Communists and other factions that are demonstrating, threatening and generally causing upheaval in the city. But Roya, a studious girl and lover of the translated classics as well as traditional Persian poets has found her ‘refuge’ in The Stationery Shop – where the papers, pens and books are everything a bibliophile could dream of. But, she also is enamored of Bahman, a friend of the owner Mr. Fakhri, a seriously politically active young man, destined to “change the world”. Mr. Fakhri is also beset with his own series of regrets and choices, having once lost the ‘love of his life’ to societal and parental expectations, he is fueling this young romance even as he warns Roya to proceed with caution.
Starting as a tale of young love as the naïve Roya is introduced to many ‘western’ activities: tango and waltz parties, coffee shops, political activism movies and dreams of ‘a democratic Iran, she and Bahman grow closer and fall in love. Even with the odds stacked against them – as his mother is most probably suffering from bipolar depression – untreated and unremarked on as this is ‘not polite”, she has made plans for Bahman, to become all that he can be with a rich and successful wife who’s family is tied to the Shah, not Roya, daughter of a simple government clerk. Roya’s family is also hesitant, her sister being the most vocal against the connection, and when plans are made for them to meet and marry in secret – presenting everyone with a fait accompli, Bahman and Roya don’t meet – in fact she is witness to the death of Mr. Fakhri in a demonstration.
Oh this story was E V E R Y T H I N G – from the young love and loss to the tumult of 1953 Iran, Roya’s subsequent emigration to study in California, and her marriage to a Boston-born law student. With all of the questions as to where they are now – or how things have been, the questions are never ending and the emotions, the what ifs, carry across miles and time. When she finally encounters Bahman’s son, running his father’s stationery store in a Boston suburb, the story comes full circle, and perhaps the two shall get answers to questions never asked. Told in multiple perspectives with a voice that not only ‘feels’ very authentic, but also details both daily life and customs and traditions in the very traditional Iranian culture, this was a ‘dip your toes into’ the smells, tastes and feel of Iran in the mid-20th century, told in ways that make the ‘different to your experience’ approachable and wholly tangible. For the prose, the voices and the convoluted story of a love that was derailed by others, the story comes to a lovely conclusion, with many answers and a sense of peace with the past, honoring both the cultures and experiences that brought them to now. The editor’s note talks about how emotionally compelling the story is, embedding itself into your pores no matter how long it is between returning to the story. I didn’t return to it – I devoured the story in a few hours, desperate to see if questions would be answered and discover if after it all, Roya would have wished for different.
Title: The Stationery Shop
Author: Marjan Kamali
Genre: Depression, Family Saga, Historic Elements, Historic Woman's Fiction, Humor elements, Political commentary, Romantic Elements, Second Chance, Setting: Iran
Published by: Gallery Books
Published on: 18 June, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 30 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
From the award-winning author of Together Tea—a debut novel hailed as “compassionate, funny, and wise” by Jill Davis, bestselling author of Girls’ Poker Night—comes a powerful love story exploring loss, reconciliation, and the quirks of fate.
Roya is a dreamy, idealistic teenager living in 1953 Tehran who, amidst the political upheaval of the time, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood book and stationery shop. She always feels safe in his dusty store, overflowing with fountain pens, shiny ink bottles, and thick pads of soft writing paper.
When Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry—she loses her heart at once. And, as their romance blossoms, the modest little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.
A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square, but suddenly, violence erupts—a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she resigns herself to never seeing him again.
Until, more than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did he leave? Where did he go? How was he able to forget her?
The Stationery Shop is a beautiful and timely exploration of devastating loss, unbreakable family bonds, and the overwhelming power of love.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.