In August 1984, Michigan housewife Betty Mahmoody accompanied her husband to his native Iran for a two-week vacation that turned into a permanent stay. To her horror, she found herself and her four-year-old daughter, Mahtob, virtual prisoners of a man rededicated to his Shiite Moslem faith, in a land where women are near-slaves and Americans despised. Their only hope for escape lay in a dangerous underground that would not take her child.
We read this in our book club and I had no idea what to expect as I had never heard of it. The description was very intriguing though and I know we were in for a troubling and emotional read.
First off, I know as much about Iran and Islamic culture as the next person. It isn't a world in which I would have a huge amount of knowledge but of course I am aware of the point of view we westerners would take on the 'oppressive nature' of the religion and culture. I did find this book gave very much one side to the story (that's the point I know), but sometimes it did come across a little extreme and racist. I appreciate this was written at a very different time and these days people are a lot quicker to call these things out, but just wanted to point out that I sometimes found it a little extreme.
That saying, what Betty and her daughter endure is horrific. They are basically tricked by her husband into going to Iran and can't leave. I can't even begin to understand the sense of utter betrayal and disbelief that Betty must experience when this happens. You think you know someone, particularly the person you have chosen to spend your life with, and then they expose a completely different side to themselves that you have never seen before. And they aren’t treated well a lot of the time, by Betty’s husband and her in-laws. She finds it very hard to trust and confide in people and is completely trapped in this harrowing situation.
In short, this is an extremely gripping and moving read. You really feel the turmoil and high emotions that Betty goes through in her attempt to escape. She goes through some unimaginable challenges and puts herself at endless risk for the sake of her daughter. To think that this is a true story and actually happened is just madness.
I did find the ending very rushed. The whole book is the build up to Betty and Mahtob's escape and then when it finally happens it's only the last few chapters. I thought we would get to experience the escape longer with them. It felt like a long build up to a very quick ending.
Overall, it's an eye opening and gripping read. As I said, it is from a different time but then again, these things likely still happen and we just don't know and it might take the exposure of more stories like this to highlight this issue.
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
NA - don't feel like it really applies to this kind of book.