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Review: The Lion Women of Tehran by Marjan Kamali

Title: The Lion Women of Tehran
Author: Marjan Kamali
Year published: 2024
Category: Adult fiction (historical)
Pages: 336 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map): USA (WA), Iran

SummaryIn 1950s Tehran, seven-year-old Ellie lives in grand comfort until the untimely death of her father, forcing Ellie and her mother to move to a tiny home downtown. Lonely and bearing the brunt of her mother’s endless grievances, Ellie dreams of a friend to alleviate her isolation.

Luckily, on the first day of school, she meets Homa, a kind, passionate girl with a brave and irrepressible spirit. Together, the two girls play games, learn to cook in the stone kitchen of Homa’s warm home, wander through the colorful stalls of the Grand Bazaar, and share their ambitions for becoming “lion women.”

But their happiness is disrupted when Ellie and her mother are afforded the opportunity to return to their previous bourgeois life. Now a popular student at the best girls’ high school in Iran, Ellie’s memories of Homa begin to fade. Years later, however, her sudden reappearance in Ellie’s privileged world alters the course of both of their lives.

Together, the two young women come of age and pursue their own goals for meaningful futures. But as the political turmoil in Iran builds to a breaking point, one earth-shattering betrayal will have enormous consequences.

Review: I have never read anything by this author before and I enjoyed this novel (and I really like the cover). It took me a while to get into it and I am not sure if that's on me or the novel.

Homa and Ellie are like so many childhood friends: you are thick as thieves, doing everything together, then a move or other circumstances separate you. You still feel that pull but time and distance change your friendship. Homa and Ellie's lives continue to intersect and they are drawn to one another in a way that shows how strong childhood friendship can be. How far will they go for one another? What will they sacrifice, and how can they influence each other? This novel certainly explores friendship in a realistic and deep way.

The historical threads are also interesting. I knew some of the Iranian history of the 1960s to 2000s, but reading it through the eyes of the characters brought it to life. I particularly enjoyed reading about the role of women in the protests against oppression. Americans in particular have a one-sided view of Iran and this novel will help dispel much of that as we view the country and its politics through the eyes of Homa and Ellie.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet (Author)--K
  • Literary Escapes--Iran

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