A spellbinding, compelling, and multifaceted tale about an Iranian family haunted by war.

A GIRL CALLED RUMI

An Iranian woman living in America confronts the trauma of her war-torn childhood in this debut novel.

Honarvar’s tale opens in Shiraz, Iran, in 1981 during the Iran-Iraq War. Kimia Shams is a 9-year-old girl on an errand to buy naan at a bakery when she is distracted by a puppet show performed by an enigmatic, aging storyteller. The square is targeted by a missile strike, and Kimia is dragged to safety by her brother, Arman. Kimia and her friend Reza Khan return to the scene of the devastation and discover a trapdoor that leads them into the magical realm of the storyteller, Baba Morshed. As the story unfolds, Baba tells the children a quest tale about the Simorgh, a bird from Persian mythology. Fast-forward to 2009, and Kimia is working as a spiritual counselor in California. She and her family still grapple with the psychological impact of war—her mother in particular is afflicted by bouts of shaking yet longs to return to her homeland. Kimia and her family journey to Iran but find themselves in the midst of the Green Uprising, where the ghosts of their past pose a clear danger. Honarvar’s gorgeously evocative prose subtly captures the young Kimia’s irrepressible delight in the face of oppression: “My sun-soaked eyes followed the touch, and although I couldn’t make out his face, I knew it was Reza. I broke into a smile. Not even my hijab could restrain the elation beaming from me.” The narrative is written predominantly from Kimia’s perspective, but some chapters are devoted to the viewpoints of other characters, such as Arman. Each is written in the first person, and although the author presents a variety of distinct voices, some readers may feel that a third-person narrative mode for such players would add further stylistic texture. This is a minor criticism of a story that draws beautifully on the power of Iranian fables to unearth the magical, restorative world that Kimia finds beneath the rubble of war: “The smooth texture of the wall changed to a rugged surface with dramatic peaks and valleys. I paused and examined a stone carving of the giant Simorgh stretched out before me.” This stellar first novel marks the writer as an author to watch.

A spellbinding, compelling, and multifaceted tale about an Iranian family haunted by war.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-942436-46-1

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Forest Avenue Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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