Family secrets, letters to a ghost father, and the Simorgh, or mythical Bird of Knowledge, inspire this lyrical tale set in Tehran on the eve of the Iranian Revolution.
When bitter, resentful matriarch Khanum-Jaan deems her 16-year-old granddaughter, Talkhoon, to be insane, she banishes her to the basement of Drum Tower, the family's estate. Talkhoon spends her days avoiding the lustful advances of her uncle Assad, grieving her beloved Baba-Ji’s comalike state, and contemplating her mother’s mysterious, long-ago disappearance and her father’s preference for political activism over taking care of his daughters. Talkhoon’s only sources of comfort derive from the memories of Baba-Ji’s obsessive writings about the Simorgh and the sweet, hypnotizing songs of her sister’s setar from her rooftop room: “Taara’s melodies and the soothing silence between them rippled in my dark head like the repeating wavelets of the calm sea.” When Talkhoon finally escapes, she comes upon a country in chaos, in the midst of revolution: “When the narrow alley opened onto a wide street, we saw the tanks approaching. Their metal bodies were muddy and they crawled toward us like legless animals, seemingly intent on rolling over us.” In the shadows of the streets of Tehran, Talkhoon and her sister must find a way to forge a new life, free from the talons of ancestral spirits, their family’s calculating lies and the menacing nights of a country tearing at the seams.
Moshiri (Creative Writing/Univ. of Houston-Downtown; Against Gravity, 2006, etc.) weaves her striking narrative with camphor-scented dreams, wish-granting poems and the twilight ritual of the sapphire feather, creating an intricate, unforgettable tapestry.