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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Veil of Roses

***** Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald. Women's fiction.

27-year-old Tamila Soroush was a school teacher in Iran, but she's been increasingly chafing under the restrictions. So her parents give her the gift of a trip to the United States to visit her sister Maryam, whom she hasn't seen in 15 years.

Maryam had married an Iranian with American citizenship, surgeon Ardishir, and everyone's hope is that Tami will do the same. Her visa is good for 3 months.

While Maryam arranges dates for Tami with eligible men, Tami wants to experience America. She attends an ESL (English as a Second Language) class with other immigrants and makes friends there, and she visits a Starbucks on her way to class, where she meets and becomes friends with Ike. All the while, she's taking photographs of the freedoms she sees, little things that are taken for granted but wouldn't have been possible for her in Iran.

The sisters Maryam and Tami and very interesting together. Maryam lives, dresses, and cooks much like she would in Iran, and yet she would have Tami marry almost anyone who would have her simply so she can stay in the U.S. Tami, on the other hand, is determined to try new foods, and be more American (there's a funny and poignant thread about shoes), and yet she'd rather go back to Iran than marry the nutcase Maryam had picked out for her. Maryam's husband Ardishir is a strong ally and a voice of reason for Tami.

The ESL class was also very interesting, showing the reactions of people from various cultures to America. Eva, the young German wife of an American soldier, was especially realistic--I'm sure I've met her before.

And of course there's Ike, who's fascinated by the exotic young woman who becomes his friend.

Veil of Roses is a wonderful love story, and a fascinating portrait of a woman coming from a restrictive society into a permissive one. The things that surprised or confused Tami weren't the big things that I'd expected--they were the little things, and as such, they rang very true--Tami had been prepared for the big things--she hadn't been living in a vacuum.

Which is something that I really appreciated. I admit being mildly apprehensive when I picked this book up to read for the Cherry Forums Book Club (discussion archived here)--I was expecting a more black-and-white story: Iran = bad, U.S. = good. It's not that story. I found a balanced view of both cultures, and Tami admits she could be contented with a life in Iran, but she wants more.

Besides being an entertaining and emotional story, Veil of Roses was very thought-provoking, about different cultures and prejudices and freedom, love, and adaptation.

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This review was so good, I went to add this book to my wish list ... and found it there already.
I have this one on my shelf already, I should move it up the list. Your review really makes me want to read it.
Oh, cool! I hope you both enjoy it as much as I did.
Ooh...I will add this book to my wishlist!
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