Afsaneh's Moon by Mehri Yalfani (McGilligan), 216 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Think you know revolution? Imagine what it would feel like trying to work for change while caught between the Shah's rock and the Ayatollah's hard place.Are you one of those people who tend to think of racism in black/white, Caucasian/Asian, Arab/Jewish, even French/English terms?
It's revealing to think of it from an Iranian point of view, where subtle shades of black and brown define people's identities and their reactions.
Spin those ideas through a narrative that tracks what happens when Iranian refugees make their way to Montreal and Toronto and you have the essential elements of the fascinating novel Afsaneh's Moon.
Rashomon-style, Mehri Yalfani tells her story in four segments from the point of view of four characters. Negar, a young but not so innocent girl, is brought to Canada by her new husband, Ramin, after her brother is executed by the Ayatollah.
Afsaneh, the daughter of privileged landowners in Iran, marries the emotionally corrupt Bahram, the fourth character, before heading to Montreal. Ramin, the cowed political activist, is hopelessly torn by his sense of duty to Negar and his love for Afsaneh.
Yalfani cleverly begins with Negar, just abandoned by Ramin, who's run off with Afsaneh, which leads us to expect that Afsaneh will be the villain of the piece. But the author complicates the plot as each character gives us a new perspective.
Though the political intrigue is elaborate, the prose is not. The sentences are clear and declarative, seldom cluttered with subordinate clauses. But the characters are terribly complex, burdened by weaknesses that compromise their passions and influence their choices.
If Afsaneh's Moon is any indication, emerging Toronto publisher McGilligan is definitely going to make a major impression in this country.Write Books at firstname.lastname@example.org.