DINA NAYERI is a writer to watch. Her perspective sheds light on a theme, already explored and scrutinized, through her intimate and thought-provoking new novel, Refuge. She’s not sentimental over things that aren’t sentimental. Her mind isn’t corrupted by nostalgia.
Nayeri’s novel, her second, starts behind the closed doors of a courtroom in Isfahan, Iran. Dr. Bahman Hamidi, a 55-year-old dentist, is waiting for the final step of his third divorce. In 1987, he had sent abroad his first wife and young children, Niloo and Kian. While he waits, he ponders his decision: “Had he, with his fatherly hopes for [his daughter] and her brother, sent them off to a foreign land to struggle and to pray to deaf gods? Did she belong to a place, to a people?” This is one of the essential questions of Refuge.
Crystalline, vivid, moving, and without pretensions, Nayeri’s writing is fluid and spare. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, and even if you are claustrophobic, don’t be afraid of submerging into the spellbinding world of Refuge. Her prose doesn’t have the heaviness of the subjects she writes about, and this is a true gift. In magical ways, she creates poetry: “We are all here, still waiting […] broken from the earth like turmeric root, staining everything.”...
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