another book in the time of coronavirus

Recently, I finished a remarkable book by Paul Yoon called Run Me to Earth about three young orphans during the 1960s civil war in Laos. The book blurb sums up it beautifully, “…Paul Yoon crafts a gorgeous study that is a breathtaking historical feat and a fierce study of the powers of hope, perseverance, and grace.” Three children, Alisak, his little sister Noi and their friend Prany survive a bombing of their village and the death of their families. On the run from the constant bombings, they take refuge in an abandoned house turned into a makeshift field hospital. These three kids “earn their keep” by making supply runs on old motorbikes. They have regular routes to other field hospitals in search of morphine or antibiotics as well as food runs to nearby villages. The orphans meld into the hospital’s supportive community until death and evacuation separates them. The group members who survive end up as refugees in America, France and Spain living emotionally untethered lives with war-scarred memories.

This is what I want you to know before you start reading this book. The setting is Laos in the 1960s during a civil war between the Royal Lao government which was US supported and pro-West and the Communist Pathet Lao party. Sound a little familiar? It should because this civil war was a Cold War proxy war between the US and Russia just like the Cambodian Civil War and the Vietnam War. These countries were part of French Indochina until France began transferring power to in-country pro-western governments which weren’t always popular with the civilians. The two major theaters of action were the Laotian Panhandle because the Ho Chi Minh Trail ran through it and the Plain of Jars. The Plain of Jars is an archaeological area which dates from 50BC. It is full of thousands of stone jars, mainly carved from sandstone. It is thought that these jars were used in ancient cremations or as large water collectors during the monsoons. In 2019, the Plain of Jars became an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

CC BY-SA 2.5,

Yoon begins the book with a note stating the extreme number of bombs the US dropped in the Plain of Jars. Yoon writes there was a “bombardment every eight minutes, twenty-four hours a day, for nine years.” As I read the history of this war, I learned that between 1964-1973 the US dropped more bombs in the Plain of Jars than we dropped total in World War 2. Think about that. The bombings include 262 million cluster bombs with an estimated 80 million that didn’t explode. This makes it difficult for archaeologists to dig and research this megalithic site. UNESCO and the Lao government are working to clear the region and develop it for tourism.

This powerful novel is only 254 pages. It is to the author’s great credit to be able to tell such a poignant and heartbreaking story of children growing up amidst war and displacement in such a short beautiful book. You will love these kids and their spirit of compassion and survival in such terrible times.

Plain of Jars video

Books in the Time of Coronavirus

Well, these are strange times. We’ll have a new normal when the virus easies up, but heck we have a new normal now. I’ve not worked since mid March when our schools closed. I’ve used my time constructively. I’ve painted walls and woodwork, deep cleaned my horrible laundry room, done beaucoups of yard work. Next is going through boxes in my attic and throwing out all the childhood school work of my children which I dedicatedly saved. My children laughed out loud at my suggestion that they take some of their “mementos.” How was I supposed to know they wouldn’t want any of this stuff?

In between all my “Martha Stewart” house projects, I’ve enjoyed sitting out in my little herb garden reading in the afternoons. This is not an activity that comes naturally to my Type A personality. It’s a new activity for me that I want to take into my new norm. We’ve had a beautiful spring along the Gulf Coast, and I’m reading a wide assortment of books.

I’ll share about several of these books. Maybe some will pique your interest. Fiction wise I just finished A Hero in France by Alan Furst. Furst is compared to John Le Carre whom I love to read. This book is an espionage thriller about the French Resistance in Paris before the US enters the war. It’s early in the Nazi occupation of the City of Light, and the star of the book Matthieu heads a resistance cell responsible for getting downed RAF airmen to safety in Spain. Great characters and of course lots of page-turning suspense and action. Very good escape reading!

As far as nonfiction is concerned, I’m browsing through Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief by Dr. Herbert Benson. It was published in 1996 when Dr. Benson was an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard and the Deaconess Hospital in Boston. He writes that we “are wired for God” and that a belief in a higher power is a huge contributor in our health and healing. Dr. Benson coins a term “remembered wellness” in which we can “remember the calm and confidence associated with health and happiness, but not just in an emotional or psychologically soothing way. This memory is also physical.” He also says a religious commitment has “ a lifetime of benefits.” He goes through these benefits, but I’m not far enough into the book yet to start listing them. I heard about this book a couple of months ago listening to a podcast with Thomas Moore, a former monk, therapist and author. Moore’s book that changed my life decades ago is Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. If you haven’t read that one, please do. Also I enjoyed the memoir by Kreis Beall, the cofounder of BlackBerry Farm in Tennessee. Her memoir is called The Great Blue Hills of God: A Story of Facing Loss, Finding Peace, and Learning the True Meaning of Home. It’s a very poignant book of abundance and loss, and Beall’s resilience and determination in building new meaning in her life. She has a strong faith in God who gives her “strength, encouragement, and hope.” It’s a powerful read.

I’m just about finished with Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, and wow is it powerful. Harari uses evolutionary biology to trace humankind from the Stone Age to the 21st century. He breaks down the timeline into four parts: the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, the unification of humankind period and the Scientific Revolution. This guy is brilliant and can easily tie together aspects from different academic disciplines into a very readable book. I first read one of his books in the fall of 2018 which was 21 Questions for the 21st Century. Harari’s chapter on education caused me to rethink what I knew about education and was the impetus for me to start an academic enrichment STEM robotics program (science, technology, engineering and math). See my blog post from October 13, 2018.

Lastly, my beloved book club will be happy to know that I am beginning to read Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Whenever we gathered last, they shamed me that I had not yet read this book. It’s been on my list, and now I will read it. I’m sure I will enjoy it as much as they swear I will!

So, in this time of COVID-19, let’s make sure we read books. We are all spending a lot (too much?)time in front of various screens. There is something calming and special about reading a book outside while feeling a breeze and listening to birdsong. I loved it as a child, and now I love it again.

Stay well!

Once We Were Brothers

Once we were brothers, and then we ended up on opposite sides in World War 2, one Jewish, one Nazi. If that doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will. Ronald H. Balson’s early novel, Once We Were Brothers is story of a Jewish family who takes in an Aryan German boy in a foster situation. The two boys come to think of themselves as brothers. The novel has a dual timeline. A contemporary time in which as elderly men in Chicago they confront each other, and a timeline which traces the relationship before and during the war. The latter timeline is told by Ben to his attorney as he tries to convince her to take his lawsuit against Elliott/Otto. Ben knows there isn’t a statue of limitation on theft by Elliott/Otto of his family money and jewelry during the war. Problem is that Elliott is now a very wealthy philanthropist who always claimed to have been held in Auschwitz himself. How will Ben and his lawyer prove Elliott is Otto and is guilty of theft, deception and war crimes?

Too many possibilities for spoilers to really review the book. I can say the legalities of such a case are represented here because Balson is a trial attorney and law professor in Chicago. Balson develops the character of lawyer Catherine and her struggle in her large corporate firm about taking Ben’s case pro bono. Also the politics of taking a case against such a respected member of Chicago society causes headaches all around. Catherine believes law should be about justice, but she knows it comes with a price.

The war years of Ben’s life as the Nazi noose tightens are well written. The fear, the hunger, the disbelief, the grief, the confusion- Balson makes it feel real. Ben, Hannah, Beka struggle to protect their parents and younger siblings as they are forced into the Warsaw ghetto, while their parents beg them to escape. There are parts that are pretty heart-wrenching.

The ending is incredible. I didn’t see it coming, but I’m glad Balson did. He wrote a well researched novel of historical fiction. He has since written several other books about Catherine and her sidekick Liam which I intend on reading as well. The legal wranglings in the other novels will be different, but if you like aspects about the field of law, you will enjoy his books.

Ruth Reichl- On Writing and Cooking

For Christmas this past year, I gave myself Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life. It is a memoir/cookbook. The year Reichl is referring to is the year after Condé Nast closed the iconic Gourmet magazine. I just finished reading her Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir about her career at the magazine. She is a fascinating woman and has had a great career combining writing and cooking- the two best things in the world in my opinion. Reichl was a food critic in NYC and LA before becoming editor in chief for ten years at Gourmet magazine. She has written several books which have all been fun to read. There are always recipes in her books which I think is delightful.

The staff at Gourmet was not expecting the magazine to close when it did. They were in the process of changing some key positions, but no one really thought the situation was as dire as it was. It was during the Great Recession or The Crash of ‘08 as we refer to it at my house. Lots of publications and lives were crashing during that time. Reichl’s life was one of them. Food and community around the table can be healing, and so My Kitchen Year tells that story along with fabulous recipes. The very first recipe I tried was Buttermilk Potatoes with Brown Butter. I mean, who wouldn’t?

I really relate to what Reichl writes in My Kitchen Year, “And so I did what I always do when I’m confused, lonely, or frightened: I disappeared into the kitchen…I still believe, to the core of my being, that when you pay attention, cooking becomes a kind of meditation…I learned the secret of life is finding joy in ordinary things.” Amen to that, Ruth! This is especially true these days with so many of us home due to the Coronavirus. I just read a great quote by Mike A. Lancaster: “In extraordinary times, the ordinary takes on a glow and wonder all of its own.”

So curl up with a cup of tea with either book, or better- both books and let your creative juices flow as you ponder her recipes. The photography in My Kitchen Year is superb, thanks to Mikkel Vang. It isn’t slick and styled. It’s real. Real food on Ruth’s real table. It’s refreshing. Read and then rattle some pots and pans!

Paris, Spies and dragonflies

I just finished reading our bookclub selection, Dragonfly by Leah Meacham, a retired English teacher and accomplished author. Dragonfly was expertly researched especially concerning the Nazi military and intelligence agencies in Nazi-occupied Paris. And Meacham writes with the authority of an author who has done her homework. This historical fiction has a dual timeline- the 1940s war years and the 1960s. The basic plot is that the Office of Strategic Service, predecessor of the CIA sends five young Americans to Paris in integrate into French society, hobnob with Nazis and their supporters and secretly radio useful info to the OSS chief Alistair Renault. These five young Americans were from vastly different socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. All were fluent in French and German with these languages sometimes being the language of their childhood home. Renault researches, recruits and trains these young spies and air drops them behind enemy lines outside of Paris. Meacham gives the reader a good understanding of the horrors of the German occupation of Paris- the starvation, the black market, the treasonous relationships necessary to survive. These five Americans integrate into French society as an engineer, a fencing instructor, a track and field instructor in a school full of Nazi boys, a fly-fishing instructor and a fashion designer. And boy, are they successful! They relay incredible hearsay information which helps the Allied cause. But are they also being setup by Nazi intelligence? If they are, then why does the information always turn out correct?

Meacham delves into the moral and ethical gray areas of WW2 through her Nazi characters, particularly SS Colonel Derrick Albrecht and Major General Konrad March along with their most valued military aids. Meacham demonstrates a strong understanding of the German military organizations of the Abwehr, Schutzstaffel and Sicherheitsdienst which makes Albrecht and March realistic and relatable characters. Yes, you read correctly. These two Nazi officers are realistic and relatable, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why! And then tell me you didn’t hope Derrick and Victoria would somehow end up together at war’s end!

The reader will come to really love these five young Americans. They are strong, patriotic, and intelligent people who risked their lives everyday. They are dropped in Paris without knowing each other’s real names or any personal information. But the bond is strong and deep and will continue to be for decades after the war. They all take the mission for deeply personal reasons which Meacham reveals to us. Their reasons only make them more lovable to us and more vulnerable to the Nazis. And the two female spies are as gutsy and determined as their male counterparts. No prissy eye-batting going on with these two girls! Don’t you just love strong female characters!

A Long Petal of the Sea

When I first saw Isabel Allende’s new book, A Long Petal of the Sea, I thought it was one of the most beautiful titles I’ve ever seen. Come to find out it is from a poem by my very favorite poet, Pablo Neruda. No wonder it’s so beautiful! You can see the shape of Chile on the map below and see why Neruda calls it a long petal. Allende’s historical novel begins in Spain during it’s horrendous civil war in the 1930s’s and ends in Chile in 1994. It is an epic story of the Dalmau family who survived the Spanish Civil War (barely) and thanks to the effort of Pablo Neruda were able to immigrate to Chile. The Dalmau family are fictional characters, but Neruda really does help Spaniards escape the cruelties of Franco by outfitting an old steamer to hold 2000 refugees. Like many of Allende’s books, this is rich in historical detail along with fascinating characters and plots.

The readers will track Victor and Roser from war torn Spain through southern France where many of the Spanish refugees were held in French concentration camps, and some were sent to Nazi Germany as forced labor. I had not been aware of this aspect of the Spanish Civil War. Because Victor was a military doctor and Roser was a classical pianist, Neruda selects them for passage on the SS Winnipeg, his steamer heading to Chile. The couple and their young son, Marcel are able to establish themselves and make a good life until Chile begins to experience civil unrest between right wing conservatives Fascists and the left wing socialists. It feels way too much like Spain to them.

They again immigrate to Venezuela and make an even better life there, but as they begin to age they miss “home” which is Chile, and so they returned only to find life unbearable under dictator Pinochet. Victor finds himself in a camp for political undesirables until he saves the life of the camp leader. It’s just too much. When Franco dies (finally), the couple return to an unrecognizable Spain. Once again, they start over and establish themselves and make a good life.

All along the way, there are lovers, trials, family grief, political unrest, and the wonderful surprises of grace. It is truly an epic tale of human perseverance, grit and motivation. This meaty story will keep the readers totally engaged as they experience the richness of Hispanic (in its historic definition) culture on two different continents. The details of the music, food, religion, and social mores add so much color to this already engrossing story. I closed this book with so much admiration for the characters and for Allende herself.

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy

I began reading Anne Boyd Rioux’s book Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: the Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters a couple of hours after seeing Greta Gerwig’s new film Little Women. Even though as a girl I found Alcott’s book a bit dated, I loved the film, and Rioux’s in-depth analysis of Alcott and her famous novel only enhances my appreciation. I remember enjoying the children’s version of Alcott’s biography, and Rioux’s book covers the real life of Alcott which contrasts to her idealized family in her novel. Rioux writes, “Writing Little Women gave Alcott the opportunity to immortalize some aspects of her life while concealing others. It would be over a century for readers to learn just how difficult and troubled her real life was… The cozy nuclear family of the Marches (nearly) all under one roof was rarely a reality for the Alcotts.”

Alcott grew up partly in an utopian community called Fruitland in Harvard, Massachusetts. Her father was an unsuccessful teacher, writer and lecturer in the American Transcendental movement. He may have been bipolar with many extremes. The Alcott girls were often under/malnourished and inappropriately clothed in cold weather. He forbade the family to eat meat or any diary products, which left fruit, bread and vegetables that they grew or bought when they could afford it. They couldn’t wear cotton because it was raised by slaves. They couldn’t wear wool because it had been “stolen” from sheep, which left linen for them to wear in the harsh winters. It is thought that Louisa’s tiny bone structure was the result of her poor diet as a child. Ralph Waldo Emerson was a neighbor and a frequent benefactor of Abigail Alcott and her four girls. Rioux describes Bronson Alcott as “a dreamer with little concern for the practical necessities of life and utterly incapable of earning a living wage.” Abigail and her girls had to support themselves with the help of charity from Abigail’s wealthy relatives or neighbors. But think of the scenes that Louisa would later write of the family table laden with delicious food, and the sisters discussing clothes while poignantly lamenting their poverty. Remember- Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.

Little Women can be considered American Realism before its time. The first part was published on September 30, 1868, and it sold 2,000 copies in two weeks. The second part was published April 14, 1869, and Alcott earned an initial $1000, which for the first time in her life she didn’t have to use to pay family debt. She invested it to ensure their future stability. After the second part was published in 1869, “Little Women was a cultural phenomenon that knew no boundaries of age, gender, or class…The dividing line between adult and children’s literature was not yet clearly drawn, and Little Women benefited from the crossover then possible.”

Why did Alcott write Little Women? Her publisher of her short stories requested it. Alcott originally thought she didn’t have enough life experiences to write a successful novel because women had so few options at the time. He told her to write of what she knew, thus the famous story of the four sisters, their adored Marmee and a largely absent father was written. Alcott goes on to write sequels to her famous story which were also successful.

Why did Alcott marrying off Jo? Her publisher insisted. At this time, strong independent women had to die or be married off by the end of the book. Alcott had wanted Jo to be a literary spinster as she was. Her compromise was developing the character of Prof. Bhaer, an enlightened and intelligent man who appreciates Jo’s intellect and strength. Bhaer is partly based on Ralph Waldo Emerson whom Alcott adored. As you can see, Rioux’s book is chocked full of great information about Alcott, her sisters and her most famous book, Little Women.

The Dutch House, A Coming of Age Tale

Ann Patchett’s eighth novel, THE DUTCH HOUSE is a coming of age tale of the bond between two motherless children, Maeve and Danny. NPR says it has traces of ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Little Princess’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel’, no mother, evil stepmother, lost privilege and place in life, and dark obsessive reminiscing. More than this, it’s a story of childhood trauma of two kids who obsess over their childhood home, the Dutch House. It begins quite simply with a rag to riches event of a husband buying his wife a 1922 mansion in celebration of his newly found success. Problem is the wife feels like an imposter in the house because as she says late in the story, “We were poor people…I had no business in a place like that, all those fireplaces and staircases, all those people waiting on me.” So how does she handle this stress? She leaves one night, abandons her children to go to India to work in orphanages. She confesses years later to Danny, “I could have served the poor of Philadelphia and come home at night but I didn’t have the sense God gave a goose”. She goes on to say that the Dutch House “took away all sense of proportion.” Add to this sad story, a wicked stepmother who throws out Danny and Maeve following the death of their father, and you have some kids suffering from childhood trauma.

Childhood trauma shows up in a myriad of ways. Since the story is told by Danny in first person, you really get a sense of his struggles: attention issues, ranging from neglecting some things and hyperfocusing on others, detachment problems, self-destructive behaviors, and obsessive worrying about Maeve. Danny also has memory gaps from his childhood. He is never sure if he knew something but forgot it or if he never knew it to begin with. He admits to being “asleep to the world.” Maeve becomes his mother figure, confidante, business partner to the detriment of his marriage. She develops long term health issues stemming from childhood Type 1 diabetes. And she never stops wishing for her mother’s return.

They return to Van Hoebeck Street to park in front of the Dutch House throughout their adult lives. Their obsessive reminiscing focuses on the house. Danny says they kept returning to the house “like swallows, like salmon, we were helpless captives of our migratory patterns. We pretended that what we lost was the house, not our mother, not our father…We had made a fetish out of our misfortune, fallen in love with it.” Danny’s wife Celeste has no patience with such and says, “It’s like you’re Hansel and Gretel. You just keep walking through the dark woods holding hands no matter how old you get. Do you ever get tired of reminiscing?”

The story of the house does come full circle in a bit of a fairy tale ending, but to be honest, I welcomed the ending after all the sadness Maeve and Danny experience. You walk along side of them as they wrestle with their issues of life: love, family, forgiveness, inheritance, and who they were as individuals. Late in the book, Danny says his rage exhaled and died over time which gives him some comfort, as it will the reader too.

Climbing The Second Mountain of Life

I’ve been reading and meditating on David Brooks’s newest book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. It spoke to me on several levels considering I’ve lived in that valley between two mountains. Brooks says our first mountain is a culturally endorsed mountain of ego, personal goals, and achievements. The valley in between is caused by various and personal circumstances- for Brooks it was a divorce and empty nest. For me, it has been a lingering financial crisis. But it’s in the valley, Brooks says is where our egos die off, and our hearts and souls have more space to operate and move. This is where he says the bigger desires are formed. Self-satisfaction gives way to gratitude, delight, kindness and joy. We develop a different value system of moral motivation instead of a system of valuing power and money. We recognize we’ve perhaps not valued the importance of committed relationships and emotional transparency. We’ve let our egos feed our souls with toxic messages.

In these valleys, we can be broken or broken open. If we are just broken without learning to trust life and to surrender to changes and new callings, we risk becoming bitter. If we let life break us open, then we combine the wisdom learned in the valley as well as the skills learned on the first mountain, and then we are confident to take the next leap into a newer and healthier way of living and relating. In our culture of individualism and personal freedom, we’ve neglected to learn to trust life itself and others. Brooks says we see this today in our country. Tribalism grows like a cancer in a society where distrust is prevalent. He says healing our country will be like healing a marriage. He writes, ” Healing a broken marriage is no different from healing a broken nation. There are always differences and disagreements in relationships, but most of the time that’s not what destroys them. It’s the way we turn disagreement into a quest of superiority. It’s not I’m right/ you’re wrong; it’s I’m better/ you’re lesser, I’m righteous/ you’re deplorable, I’m good/ you’re contemptible. It’s the tendency to be quick to take offense in a way that declares your own moral superiority.” Brooks uses Abraham Lincoln’s words and attitude following the Civil War as an example: ” Lincoln puts us all in the same category of culpability and fallenness. He realistically acknowledges the divisions and disappointments that plagued the nation. However, he does not accept the inevitability of a house divided, and calls for a radical turning of the heart: ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all.'” We could use some Abraham Lincoln about right now. Let’s all remember change begins with each of us.

Another one of the best points is asking what life expects of us, not what we expect of it. “What is life asking of me?” Brooks says to try to find the tension that awakens moral, spiritual and relational energy. He says we have to look for it under our conscious awareness. This is where we will find our calling, our vocation. There will be the foundation of joy, “ultimately joy is found not in satisfying your desires, but in changing your desires so you have the best desires.” Joy and fulfillment comes from service to others and not to just ourselves. Brooks discusses how the desire for the “common good” has been lost in our age of individualism, and boy is that not obvious during this time of COVID?

I loved reading his “10-10-10 rule” when important decisions have to be made. How will this decision feel in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years? This should take some of the stress off short and long range planning!

This is a good book to ponder as each of us tries to help our country through this terrible season. It’s a good reminder of the dignity of each of us and the benefit of the common good.

Love in the Time of Unrest

Over the holidays, I enjoyed reading The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali, an Iranian-American living in Boston. It is a political/historical fiction that takes place along two timelines- Tehran in 1953 and Boston in 2013. The political thread is the coup by the Shah against democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh. The Shah’s coup was underwritten by the United States and Great Britain because the fear was Mossadegh nationalizing Iran’s oil. The US and GB had pretty much been calling the shots about the economy of Iran and it’s oil and were less than keen about Mossadegh’s plan. This coup, we now know changed the world in the long term. The unpopular Shah gets overthrown in the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and fast forward to the turmoil in the Middle East today. But I digress…

The Stationery Shop is a love story too. You didn’t see that coming, did you? Yes, Roya and Bahman, both educated teenagers fall in love in Mr. Fakhri’s book store. It was love at first sight in the poetry aisle. Mr. Fakhri calls Bahman, “the boy who would change the world” because of his political activism, brilliant mind and passion. Bahman was also of a higher class than Roya who is educated beyond her standing because her father wants his two daughters to become scientists as a means of upward socioeconomic mobility. Unfortunately this love affair does not sit well with Badri, Bahman’s mother and the villain of the story. Kamali is kind enough to her readers to eventually tell us why Badri is so cruel and bitter, and it is heartbreaking.

Our star-crossed lovers are double-crossed on August 19, 1953, the day of their planned elopement and the day of the violent coup to overthrow Mossadegh. Bahman does not show up at the designated meeting spot, but Mr. Fakhri does. Before the bookseller can explain the mixup to Roya, he is indiscriminately shot by the Shah’s military police. So for sixty years, Roya wonders why didn’t he meet her. Who double-crossed them and why? In 2013, both having married others, Bahman asks Roya, “Who tricked us, Roya? Someone did. I said Baharestan Square. Who was it who changed our letters?…What about your sister? Was it Jahangir?…Who did this to us? Was it Mr. Fakhri? Not my mother, surely.”

Kamali expertly weaves so many themes together- the politics, the beautiful Persian culture with delicious descriptions of food, the beauty of Persian poetry. The reader is left with an understanding of the pre-Islamic social mores of the mid 20th century Iranian culture which most of us know so little about. In addition, fate and resilience are almost characters in and of themselves because of the huge roles they play in the lives of the book’s personalities.

It is a delightfully poignant read. Yes, it’s sad, but there is grace at the end. It takes the rough edge off the sorrow.

Ponderings: My April 18, 2018 post was on Michael Axworthy’s book, Iran: The Empire of the Mind. The people of Iran are Persian, not Arab, and their culture is very ancient and beautiful. Let me say, in my humble opinion that is not so humble, the people of Iran deserve more than they are getting.