This extraordinary, gripping debut is a rags-to-riches-to-revolution tale about an orphan girl's coming of age in Iran.
"Aria is a feminist odyssey, about a girl in a time of intolerance as the revolution in Iran is breaking out . . . a poised and dramatic historical novel with contemporary relevance." --John Irving
"Here comes a sweeping saga about the Iranian revolution as it explodes--told from the ground level and the centre of chaos. A Doctor Zhivago of Iran." --Margaret Atwood (on Twitter)
It is the early 1950s in a restless Iran, a country powerful with oil wealth but unsettled by class and religious divides and by a larger world hungry for its resources. One night, a humble driver in the Iranian army is walking home through a neighbourhood in Tehran when he hears a small, pitiful cry. Curious, he searches for the source, and to his horror comes upon a newborn baby girl abandoned by the side of the road and encircled by ravenous dogs. He snatches up the child, and forever alters his own destiny and that of the little girl, whom he names Aria.
Nazanine Hozar's stunning debut takes us inside the Iranian revolution--but seen like never before, through the eyes of an orphan girl. Through Aria, we meet three very different women who are fated to mother the lost child: reckless and self-absorbed Zahra, wife of the kind-hearted soldier; wealthy and compassionate Fereshteh, who welcomes Aria into her home, adopting her as an heir; and finally, the mysterious, impoverished Mehri, whose connection to Aria is both a blessing and a burden. The novel's heart-pounding conclusion takes us through the brutal revolution that installs the Ayatollah Khomeini as Iran's supreme leader, even as Aria falls in love and becomes a young mother herself.
Hozar's towering bildungsroman debut, already an international bestseller, spans three decades, capturing the maturation of the novel's protagonist, Aria, amid the Iranian Revolution. Abandoned by her mother in Tehran as a baby in 1953, Aria spends her early years raised by a military driver, Behrouz, and his abusive wife, Zahra, who often locks the girl outside and denies her food. After Aria contracts trachoma at age six, Behrouz arranges to send her to live with Zahra's former employer, the wealthy Fereshteh, who takes in the girl as her own daughter, enrolls her in school, and forces her to visit the home of the less-fortunate Shirazi family to teach the household's children to read. Years pass, and Aria, along with childhood friends Hamlet and Mitra, completes high school and enrolls in university, where she crosses paths with disciples of Ayatollah Khomeini, who they claim will create a better Iran. As Tehran grows more violent, Aria realizes Hamlet is in love with her, and she must navigate his affections while they both become entangled in the growing uprising against the Shah. Hozar expertly weaves people in and out of Aria's life and crafts a living, breathing environment for her heroine to inhabit, and brings things to a charged climax. This will be hard for readers to shake.