Book Reviews

Review: The Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

‘People do amazing things for love. Books are full of wonderful stories about this kind of stuff, and stories aren’t just fantasies, you know. They’re so much a part of the people who write them that they practically teach their readers invaluable lessons about life’ (18)

Rooftops of Tehran was an absolutely beautiful book with a phenomenal protagonist, a heartbreaking story, and an exploration of our choice between doing what is allowed and what is right.

Summary

We bring solace to our hearts by displaying our emotions. When grief strikes, we do whatever it takes to our bodies to wring relief from our wounded souls, without apology or regret. (86)

The back cover has a brilliant synopsis: “An unforgettable novel of young love and coming of age in a nation headed toward revolution”. The story follows our main protagonist, Pasha, an extremely honorable young man who is conflicted about his secret love for his neighbor. Betrothed to one of his friends, he must fight his feelings as they grow closer. Their summer months draw to a close and this blissful mood is broken as the secret police’s actions threaten the harmony of their group and begin actions that will have terrible consequences for them all.

Review

Love is a private matter, and the vault of the heart is not to be opened lightly, nor the treasure of love exposed. (257)

One of the first things I noticed about this wonderful book was the format. Formatted with alternating chapters between the present and the past, a wonderful apprehension is created. From the very beginning you notice this beautiful tension. There is a disconnect between the two times, a gulf of time and distance that holds treacherous dangers and mysteries. As the book continues towards this crashing of two realities the suspense is expertly crafted as we wait on the edges of our chairs.

‘If there’s a life after death, I’m living it. If there is a hell, I’m burning in it. I love you, and I always have…I’ve been living with love and guilt for a long time now. I don’t want it to be like that anymore.’ (208)

As I’ve said earlier, the protagonist is great. He is deeply loyal and incredibly admirable for a young adult protagonist. Pasha is smart, well-read (I’m a sucker for well-read characters), and compassionate. We feel his confusion, his dissonance, because the world is conflicted. Together with the wonderful descriptions of the scenery and politics, and his young adult perspective, us, as readers, are able to empathize with his vulnerability. The exploration of the political scene is educational for me, and it was a journey of exploration. There are so many heart wrenching moments of the ordinary kind: unrequited love, the first tender moments of love, but also of a larger and much more dangerous kind: a lack of justice, or stability.

This uncertainty is a main undercurrent and affects all aspects of his life, instead it is threaded through with no means of escape except exile. The book is about our choices and battles to do what is right when there can be no true right. It examines moments when the legal right and the real right crash together, forcing us to betray one or the other. Do we break the law or our conscience? However, the book is also about losing and finding our faith: in the system, God, and love.

The twists and the turns tug our heart strings and we feel the ache of love, the desperation for being reunited, and the passion that burns. My only complaint is the ending. I need more answers in my life, it’s almost maddening. The whole journey was a roller coaster of emotions and I dearly hope that Seraji writes a sequel, because I need it. The characters, even the side ones, were completely alive, almost as if you could feel them breathing, and you can really bond with them.

‘It’s all about honor, friendship, love, giving it all you have, living an alert life and not pretending ignorance because it’s an easier way out—all those things packaged together, isn’t it?’ (303)

These philosophical journeys combined with the coming of age plot makes the story phenomenal, beautifully written, incredibly complex, and a wonderful read. The ending is revealed in tears and realizations that I never expected. This book is emotional, but extremely rewarding and while the ending will leave you with more questions than before, it will occupy your thoughts far after the last page. You can purchase a copy on Amazon, add it to Goodreads, and visit the author’s website.

Discussion

What would you do for love?

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