The Girl from the Garden
Author: Parnaz Foroutan
The Girl from the Garden has gotten some swooping reviews: from Kirkus, a starred review:
“Foroutan’s lyrical debut offers a mosaic of stories evoking life within a wealthy Jewish home in Kermanshah, Iran…through the ghostly voices of the unhappy home, with brothers Asher and Ibrahim at its center and the womenfolk circling them like satellites, the disastrous history is slowly reassembled.”
This reviewer will acquiesce: the prose is good. Not exceptional. The story’s narrator, Mahboubeh, is the only surviving daughter of Asher Malacouti and narrates her story as an elderly woman and the only surviving daughter now living in Los Angeles. Her story tells the sad story of the Malacouti family and its sons in an older Iran, with exceptional gleanings into the political strife and everyday life of Iranian families.
It is early 20th century Iran and a wealthy family of Persian Jews are the focal point in The Girl from the Garden. The novel swarms with lush poetic language, bringing the reader close to the buzzing central view of the city. As the reader expects, this is a patriarchal family and women are devalued and invisible and the perfect foil for Mahboubeh’s tale.
Asher Malacouti is the head of the prosperous Jewish family living in the Iranian town of Kermanshah and more than anything, Asher wants a son. His young wife Rakhel is trapped in this marriage where she only gives Asher daughters, and is scorned and shunned by the other family members because she cannot bear Asher his desired-above-all son and heir. Rakhel grows bitter and angry out of the fear that she will be thrown into the streets by her husband and she desperately stands by and watches her sister in law Khorsheed’s pregnancy grow fruitful. Rakhel realizes that Asher wants to take his cousin Kokab for his next wife. Rages when Rakhel cannot conceive a male heir, and makes a choice that destroys the family, the household and drives Rakhel to make her own extreme choice to preserve her status in her family – with her survival at stake.
The theme is not unique or original but the storytelling is well done, and Parnaz Foroutan has a great debut novel on her hands. Myself? I was not so impressed, and felt that if this had not been a novel about an “exotic culture” I perhaps would not have picked it up. Still, a powerful plot and a cast of characters that hold our hearts lend the novel a strong audience.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Overall: 3 for me
Review by Broad “A”
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own
The Girl from the Garden: A Novel is available for purchase on Amazon.com and your local bookseller.