👂 How did I come across this book?
- Risha suggested it for Book Club, knows the author.
ℹ️ What was going on in my life as I read this book?
- I read this in December 2021 and finished it on January 1st, 2022. Being around the new year had me in a more reflective mood, taking a break from work for a few days and relaxing.
- Some of the reading happened while I was in Puerto Rico visiting family. However, I crammed about 200-250 pages into two days after coming back to NYC to be ready for book club on Jan 2, 2022.
- My life overall has been good, peaceful. Though there were small dramas while at home in PR. Marcos was upset and started a WhatsApp thread that was kind of toxic around kids favoritism, accusing mom of not loving him like a son, etc. This was triggered by him seeing pictures of Naldo and I at home enjoying steak while papá didn’t allow him to visit because of COVID risks (his new bar, etc.) I feel a little guilty because I knew he was under a lot of pressure with the bar opening (new business) and he had picked me and Wenchao up at the airport just a few days earlier, doing a favor for papá, yet here I was and wasn’t sure how to react to this situation. I kept silent. Wise or cowardly?
Book Summary + Notes
- Kimia has a very active imagination – how much of what she saw was real?
- Kimia’s mom, Roya, only seems happy when writing. She hits the kids when they disobey, has a fuming temperament that scares many, including her husband. Later on, she can’t recall many of the things she did that scarred her children. She has PTSD and suffers attacks even through the end of her life. She’s a very complex character. Her children both think of her as a lousy parent. Is she mentally ill? Is her complex neurodiversity what allows her to be a great poet – assuming she was good based on her poetry recitals back in Shiraz.
- Arman is presented first as a lost man, MIT dropout, trying to make it work by opening a bar, often using drugs and alcohol to escape reality. Late in the book we find out the scars that he’s carrying from the war — losing his dad, seeking refuge in the militant group, trying to make sense of his place in the world. He was getting scared about the path this was taking him when his family moves to the US. Somehow he makes it into MIT, only to drop out. What is the importance of Arman’s character in this book?
- The story shows the transition from a more equal and liberal Iran, into one in which religion is used for power. In the process, women rights are plundered, the local population that doesn’t go along with it is terrorized. Different norms by gender become a central theme of how people must live their lives. We look at this changing world through the eyes of a rebellious girl with a strong friendship with a boy. The world around her is making her innocent friendship harder, she hates everything about this new world, yet she doesn’t have a choice. She hopes to find some support in her mom, but fails to do so. In the midst of all this, she finds a wise man, a mystic, a magician of sorts, and a safe haven where she can dream (roya) and be herself.
- Amu Doctor seems like the most buddhist person, very forgiving and present. Everyone was afraid of how he’d react to knowing the truth, yet he simply accepted and showed compassion. Having lost his son didn’t jade him, he showed true acceptance and forgiveness, in contrast to Kimia’s surface-level mindfulness teachings that felt like just covering things up — shown in her inability to forgive her own mother, see the good in her brother, and her habit of cutting.
- What was the significance of Kimia’s encounter with Baba Morshed towards the end of the book, as an adult? In that brief encounter, Kimia seems to have connected with something inside herself. What was the significance of her going into a dark underground space to find Baba Morshed?
- What’s up with all the birds?