FICTION

Aria

Pantheon. Aug. 2020. 448p. ISBN 9781524749033. $28.95. F
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[DEBUT] Army driver Behrouz finds a baby in a Tehran alley and takes her home, but his wife clearly does not want the girl and severely neglects her between beatings.Yet Aria becomes a strong and feisty child who knows her own mind and is soon adopted by a single woman of better means who has several other children in her care. A quick learner at school, Aria is asked to teach some young girls in a poorer part of town to read, and the woman running this household becomes yet another mother figure for Aria. The city’s turmoil eventually leads to the 1979 revolution, with the impact reverberating among Aria, her family, and her circle of friends. She emerges as a survivor, true to herself as she battles through political, social, and religious upheaval and exemplifying the resilience of those facing demeaning and destructive forces.
VERDICT Exploring motherhood and personal relationships as well as the chaotic upheavals in revolutionary Tehran, this debut offers a powerful lead character in Aria. But its minor characters are just as memorable, with the narrative revealing how their circumstances have shaped their personalities. Highly recommended, especially for book groups.

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