March 20, 2013

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri

**This review is part of the Amazon Vine Program**

I haven't read too many books that take place in Iran. Countries near there, yes, but not Iran. So this was an interesting look at the country for me, especially with all the changes it has had over the past couple of decades. And this is fiction, but it is told in a way that makes you believe it could happen in real life.

Saba and her sister Mahtab are twins. Born to wealthy Iranian parents they are split up in the middle of their childhood. Saba remembers it as her mother and Mahtab leaving for America without her and her father. But everyone else tells her that her mother is gone and Mahtab is dead. She's not sure what to believe because her memories so clearly tell her otherwise. With this pain of being left behind, and with the strict rules in Iran, Saba has to make choices about her own future, and what life she can lead in Iran. Her connections with her friends offer her some respite, but call her other troubles, especially when one of her friends becomes interested in a revolutionary women's group in the area.

You have to pity Saba. Even if she is the spoiled rich girl, she goes through things that no-one should have to go through. And she isn't given the freedom of making many choices that are in her best interest. She has to sacrifice to get to those choices. Which is something that many of us are fortunate not to have experience with. Since we only know of Mahtab through Saba's tales, I think she is idolized a bit. She's the expression of everything Saba desires and I actually didn't like her because of it. Saba's friends, while good for her in some ways, also bring her down in others, and I wasn't a big fan of them either. I just wanted to root for someone in this novel, and even though I could to an extent for Saba, there wasn't any character satisfying to really put your hopes behind.

While this book did drag in parts, I found it engaging. When you got past the stories of Mahtab, Saba's world was so descriptive that you really felt immersed in the culture. Even day to day village life had some meaning behind it. Combine that with the restrictions on women, the underground groups of revolution and Christianity, and it made for a complex novel. But there were some brutal things. Saba herself is brutalized at one point (with no real reason given, which makes it even worse) and her friend is also brutalized (with a reason given but one that will make you scream in frustration). It's hard stuff to read. And the whole book is sad and almost bleak.

I think that this book was well written and well worth reading. But I do wish I could have had a character to believe in, because as interesting as Saba was (and in some ways she could inspire), she was also broken and sad and unapproachable.

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea
Copyright 2013
420 pages

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