On the eve of the Iranian Revolution, a large extended family splinters as all of its members evaluate their places—or lack thereof—in the rapidly changing country.
From a busy Parisian street corner on the day of a solar eclipse in 2012, Shazdehpoor—an elderly Iranian expatriate—reminisces about a day 30 years earlier when “the moon slowly swallowed the sun” in what now feels like an alternate universe. On that day, in a lush, apple blossom–scented orchard belonging to Bibi-Khanoom and her husband, retired judge Akbar-Agha, the family gathers for its first spring lunch. But even as they dine together, secrets and familial strife hum beneath the surface. Akbar-Agha debates the limits of governmental justice with his brother, the firebrand mullah Haj-Agha; Bibi-Khanoom’s niece, Ghamar, barks at her meek tailor husband, Mohammad-Agha, masking an insidious marital conflict; and their daughter Nasreen sneaks off among the cherry trees on a tryst with Shazdehpoor’s son Madjid. The absence of Madjid’s opium-addicted brother, Jamsheed, is also palpable. But when a deadly conflict between two young men breaks out in the town square and inflames the bitter rift between a pro-Islamic faction and its opponents, the family is drawn into the unrest it spurs. As the mullah and Jamsheed take the side of the "martyr" who killed his "elitist" foe, Madjid—newly a university student and eager to help shape the country’s future—is caught in a deadly trap by a sinister political group. When the eclipse approaches and danger spreads through the region, the family members must each weigh their allegiances to their blood and beliefs. In her lush and atmospheric debut, author Ghaffari sketches a complex portrait of a country on the brink of revolution and explores the poignant ways political unrest can bind or tear families apart. Although Nasreen and Madjid’s romantic plotline sometimes veers into predictable territory, the story’s generous emotional core offsets it in a nuanced, character-driven exploration of a formative moment in a country’s complicated history.
An evocative and deeply felt narrative portrait.