Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

Rooftops of Tehran By Mahbod Seraji
368 pages
Published May 2009 by Penguin
Source: borrowed

In pre-revolutionary Iran, 17-year-old Pasha is spending the summer on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, talking about what teenage boys the world over talk about--the girls they're in love with, their crazy parents, the neighborhood bullies. Pasha is secretly in love with Zari, the girl next door. But Zari has been betrothed to Doctor since they were young children. And Pasha really, really admires Doctor who, as a student many years older, has ideas about the world that Pasha finds compelling. When Doctor goes away for a while, Ahmed hatches a plan to allow Pasha to spend time with Zari (and Ahmed to spend time with the girl he is in love with as well). Despite feeling guilty about being in love with Doctor's future wife, this is a wonderful time for Pasha. But when Doctor sneaks back to the neighborhood late one night, Pasha accidentally gives him away to the Shah's secret police and sets in motion a series of events that will change the lives of everyone in the neighborhood.

This story appealed to me on many levels. It was so interesting to learn more about another part of the world, another culture, another time. Seraji includes in the story the views that many Iranians had of the Americans at the time. They hated the U.S. for their interference in their country and for installing a despot. At the same time, they were entranced with the idea of going to the U.S. and the lifestyle and educational opportunities to be found there. The stories about how dissidents were treated were horrific but not over done and really used to make the reader understand the character' motivations.

The coming-of-age story of both Pasha and Ahmed includes, remarkably, a great deal of humor which makes it feel very realistic and believable as it balances out the heavier elements. The writing is clear but paints a vivid picture of the people and their surroundings.

Seraji's writing can sometimes get a bit cliched and occasionally even flowery. Periodically, the story seemed to drag. But not often and not for long; and, because the overall story was so good, this reader was willing to forgive those flaws.

I read this for my face-to-face book club which will meet to discuss it next week. I anticipate that it will lead to a lively discussion as there is much to talk about in this book. We are looking forward to getting to talk to Mr. Seraji as well; it specifically says in the back of the book that he is available to talk to book clubs.

For an author Q and A and an audio interview, click here.


  1. I've seen this book off an on and it's never appealed to me but your review makes me want to pick it up. I love coming-of-age stories. Sometimes they can be heart-warming, other times tragic but if done well, memorable nonetheless.

  2. Great review! I hope you do get to talk to the author and publish what he says!

  3. I've tossed this book around several times. I wish I could be a part of your face-to-face book talk...hope it is lively!

  4. I also can't wait for our discussion. Can I include the link for the author Q&A, which includes a link to an audio dialog?

    Glad you enjoyed this book so much!

  5. I've wish listed this book. So happy to read your thoughts. sounds pretty great to me.

  6. I've been wanting to read this book and am glad you enjoyed it, Lisa, even despite the flaws. I'm really interested in the cultural aspects in particular. Thank you for your great review.

  7. I have this on my shelf and I cant to get time to read it. Hopefully after the holidays... life has just been hectic!

    Great review!

  8. I really enjoyed this book, glad you liked it too!