The story opens in New York in 1996. Mina gets a call from her mother Darya announcing that she has found the perfect gift for her daughter's twenty-fifth birthday: a very eligible Iranian American bachelor (the latest in a long line). Mina, who is studying for her M.B.A., doesn't want to sit through another awkward introduction, she doesn't want to get married, she doesn't even want to be in business school. She wants to be an artist, but her parents expect her to follow her older brothers into a successful career. Mina finally agrees to meet the perfect-on-paper Mr. Dashti. But later she surprises her parents by announcing that she is going back to Iran, to the country they fled eighteen years ago.
Part of her had always been hovering in midair over the place that she had left. What if the country and history her parents loved was still buried there? What if she could find it? Could Mina go back and see what Darya meant when she said she wanted Mina to have "everything she had"? Mina had always wished that she could have known the Iran Darya had grown up in, instead of the Iran that she herself had escaped from. Could she find it and piece it together if she went back there as an adult?Her father Parviz tells her no, absolutely not. "What you are suggesting is ludicrous," he tells her, turning to Darya for support. Instead, her mother not only agrees, but tells her daughter, "The answer is yes . . . of course I will come with you." Mina, who had no idea of inviting her, is left as speechless as Parviz. She doesn't know that her mother has her own reasons, her own restlessness.
The story then shifts back to 1978, in the months before the Revolution began. We meet the Rezayi family in their Tehran life, the children in school, Parviz in his medical practice, rooted in their extended family. We see the events of the Revolution mainly through Mina's eyes, as her life becomes more and more bound by rules, and by the constant fear of police raids. Soon after Mina's tenth birthday, tragedy strikes their family, and her parents make the difficult decision to leave. We then follow the family to New York City, as they make a new life in America - only to face hostility from Americans who know Iran only through hostages and war. The story then shifts back to Mina and Dayra's visit in 1996, and their eventual return home.
I am drawn to stories of emigration, of the courage that it takes to leave one's home and family for a new world. It was interesting to read one from the perspective of an Iranian family. It was even more interesting to read about immigrants returning home, finding their place again in the world they left behind, observing the changes. I enjoyed seeing Iran through Mina and Dayra's eyes, particularly Tehran. It was fascinating to watch the transformation in Daryra, coming back to her home and extended family after so many years. She seems to find her place so much more easily than her daughter, who had the idea in the first place. The relationship between mother and daughter is complicated, in ways any mother or daughter would find familiar.