It is the 1950s in a restless Iran, a country rich in oil but deeply divided by class and religion. The government is unpopular and corrupt and under foreign sway. One night, an illiterate army driver hears the pitiful cry of a baby abandoned in an alley and menaced by ravenous wild dogs. He snatches up the child and takes her home, naming her Aria—the first step on an unlikely path from deprivation to privilege. Over the next two decades, the orphan girl acquires three mother figures whose secrets she will learn only much later: reckless and self-absorbed Zahra, who abuses her; wealthy and compassionate Fereshteh, who adopts her; and mysterious Mehri, whose connection to Aria is both a blessing and a burden.
A university education opens a new world to Aria, and she is soon caught up in the excitement and danger of the popular uprising against the Shah that sweeps through the streets of Tehran. The novel’s heart-pounding, explosive finale sees the Ayatollah Khomeini’s brutal regime seize power—even as Aria falls in love and becomes a mother herself.
Nazanine Hozar’s stunning debut gives us an unusually intimate view of a momentous time, through the eyes of a young woman coming to terms with the mysteries of her own past and future.