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Review: Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

Title: Rooftops of Tehran
Author: Mahbod Seraji
Year Published: 2009

Genre: Adult Fiction
Pages: 345
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2014 Google Reading map): Iran

FTC Disclosure: I received this book as a gift

Summary (from the back of the book): In a middle-class neighborhood in Iran's sprawling capital city, seventeen-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend, Ahmed, joking around and talking about the future. Even as Pasha asks burning questions about life, he also wrestles with a crushing secret. He has fallen in love with his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. And despite Pasha's guilt-ridden feelings for her, over the long, hot days his tentative friendship with Zari deepens into a rich emotional bond.

But the bliss of those perfect stolen months is shattered in a single night, when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah's secret police. The violent consequences awaken Pasha and his friends to the reality of living under the rule of a powerful despot ,and lead Zari to make a shocking choice from which Pasha may never fully recover.

Review: Not only is this a good story, but I learned about life in Iran, life under the Shah, and about the Iranian culture.

In many ways this book is a gentle book. I felt like the writing style and the story takes the reader on a slow look at life in "the alley" where all the characters live. We read of their visits for tea, the boys hanging out on the rooftops, getting to know the girls they like, interacting with family and friends. All of that is done at a slow pace, like life, as we live the every day things that make up our lives.

However, in amongst the gentle, slow, and "regular" life in this Tehran neighborhood, there is also anguish, fear, bravery, and violence. The characters are living on the edge every day under the dictatorship of the Shah in the 1970s and any small action can have dire consequences. I was nervous for the characters as they discussed political issues, hating America and the CIA for backing the Shah, and fighting the laws implemented by the Shah. I feel like I got a real sense for what life was like for regular people who just trying to do their best at that time in Iran. Their lives were like mine in the regular and every day, yet so different in the pressures and issues!

If you enjoy getting to know a neighborhood (I loved the concept of them all living in the same alley with home connected by the rooftops), cheering on young love and those that fight for what is right, read this book.

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