Thursday, April 22, 2010

Caspian Rain

I just read one of those books. You know the kind—one that stays with you and inspires you to read many lines more than once, just to savor the prose. One that forces you to question your writing ability. It’s Gina B. Nahai’s Caspian Rain, a novel which will haunt me forever.

From her Web site:
A young Iranian Jewish girl, faced with her own impending deafness, must also struggle to prevent the breakup of her family.
In the decade before the Islamic Revolution, Iran is a country at the brink of explosion. Twelve-year-old Yaas is born into an already divided family: Her father is the son of wealthy Iranian Jews who are integrated into the country’s upper-class, mostly Muslim, elite; her mother was raised in the slums of South Tehran, one street away from the old Jewish ghetto.
Yaas spends her childhood navigating the many layers of Iranian society. Her task, already difficult, becomes all the more critical when her father falls in love with a beautiful woman from a noble Muslim family. As her parents’ marriage begins to crumble and the country moves ever closer to revolution, Yaas is plagued by a terrifying genetic illness that is slowly robbing her of her hearing. Facing the prospect of complete deafness, Yaas learns that her father is about to abandon her and her mother, and so she undertakes a desperate, last-ditch effort to save herself and her family.

Chitra Divakaruni, author of Mistress of Spices and one of my other favorites, Sister of My Heart, has this to say:

“Gina Nahai’s beautifully written novel Caspian Rain is evocative and poetic, with striking images that remain in the mind long after they are read. It is also a heart-wrenching examination of the tragedies of women caught in the net of gender, history, family secrets and the unbending laws of high society. But ultimately it is a celebration of the human spirit — the moments of joy and courage and risk-taking that make all our lives worth living.”

Caspian Rain is filled with many brilliant, memorable lines, but the following words capture both Yaas’ desolate situation and her fierce spirit.

"It is true that I have tiny bones—thin ankles and wrists, a face and body that look more like a pencil sketch of a child than a complete picture—but I’m a girl, and this alone makes me indestructible: every woman I know, even the ones who refer to themselves as 'thinking people,' which means they understand more than most women but not as much as men, believes that girls are like weeds; they grow anywhere, survive any illness and misfortune, even if you don’t want them to."

“It’s strange, how a person carries around the shadow of those that matter most to her. You can always see it—that presence, or its absence—in the eyes, in the movements of the hands, in a person’s laugh. You can see it—if an old woman had a father who loved her when she was a child; if a middle-aged man lost his first love; if a teenage girl has a best friend she knows she can run to. You see it in the way people move and speak, in the subjects they choose and the things they avoid, in the way they appear solid or hollow, certain or plagued with doubt.”

I've often thought I'd one day go for an MFA in Creative Writing. Maybe even at USC where I can learn from Ms. Nahai. Meantime, I'll be reading her backlist of three books! No doubt I will find those equally memorable.

What novel remains in your mind?

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