The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik *WOW!*

Saturday, March 12, 2011


The Good Daughter
The argument started like any other of their arguments. He'd come home late from a party. In the circles in which he then moved, it had lately become fashionable to take a puff of opium with liquor, a combination that had brought him home even more bleary-eyed and unsteady on his feet than usual. The old curses and recriminations flashed between them, though this time he didn't strike her with his open hand but instead made a fist. He struck her just once this way, but even in his state he managed to do it with such perfection that the room went black and she fell to the floor. When Kobra opened her eyes it was to the sight of her own blood, streaming so profusely onto the tiled floors that it had formed a small pool beside her.

Jasmin Darznik's The Good Daughter is a beautifully written compelling biography about her own mother, Lili, who was born in Iran -- almost doomed to a docile and probably condemned life but instead goes on to pursue her studies in Germany and eventually moves to the United States at the dawn of the revolution. The book is full of all things Iranian that I love. The revolution is a sour taste in the whole of Iran's history, but the people who came forward to say that story have been wonderful. Jasmin herself didn't know much about her mother until she accidentally comes across an old photo featuring her mother with her first husband, whom Jasmin does not know at all.

I just loved this book. This is one of those magnificent reads from which I found it so hard to look away. I finished it in just two weekdays though sadly my review is a couple of months late. Even after all these days, I still remember how awesome this book was. Lili is one of those amazing heroines, who don't let their fates decide the rest of their lives. She was sufficiently traditional that whenever Jasmin did something "un-Iranian", Lili would keep talking about the good daughter who did good things. But she was sufficiently modern that she didn't let anything come in her way once her education in Germany was approved, where she met her husband-to-be. I couldn't help but root for Lili. She had easily lived the life of any 30-year old woman by the time she was thirteen. She'd been dismissed from school, married, abused, lost her virginity, become pregnant to a girl she couldn't keep, and fallen victim to a drug overdose - all because of being swayed or influenced by a society that was intent on hiding its women, yet making sure they got roped in to wedlock as early as possible.

Lili's father, Sohrab, was not in love with his wife, Kobra. He abused her, kicked her out of his home many times, abandoned her while he went to live with his long-time lover, and yet Kobra never stopped looking out for him. She literally bore his abuses if they made him feel better. I wanted to whack her many times and persuade her to move on, but a collusion of circumstances - Iranian customs, the taboo that is divorce, and her own insecurities - made her a servant of his mood swings. While I hated Sohrab for how he treated Kobra, he was the perfect father for Lili. He was not supportive of her early marriage, and when Lili left her husband, destined to a horrible life, Sohrab insisted that she make something of it -- this is what provided her an opportunity to study in Germany.

Although divorce was frowned upon, and as in many Muslim communities, Iranian women didn't have the option of calling a divorce (the men could easily divorce their wives by word of mouth), I found it interesting that the Iranian society (at least in those days) accepted divorce with a lot more ease than what I'm used to hearing from news sources in the Middle East. There were a lot of wagging tongues and a considerable amount of scandalized gestures, but none of them were so significant as what I've heard the situation to be out there. Divorced Iranian women were ridiculed, but they could move on with their lives, and make something much more of it, with fathers like Sohrab. In Iran, education wasn't wasted on girls, as in so many countries. Their marriages were arranged as early as when they were 11 years of age, and the couple's first night (read sex) is a celebrated event, wherein the ladies of the house spend the night by the door, waiting for the bloodied handkerchief. (Ok, writing that grossed me out.)

The Good Daughter reads like a riveting fictional story. I had to remind myself many times that this was nonficion. After all, who said nonfiction cannot be suspenseful or intriguing? My review doesn't do justice to it, because it's only a tiny fraction of the awesomeness filled in this book. Really, you should just go pick the book and read it -- there's nothing more that I can say. Lili is a woman I would love to meet and know personally -- she is strong, ambitious, and even as a child, she had plenty of perseverance. Reading this book made me feel like I was lost in an incredible saga, and at all points, I wanted Lili to come out successful. 

I received an ebook version of this title for free for review from the publisher Hachette via NetGalleyThe Good Daughter was released on January 27th. Check it out on the publisher's pageGoodreadsAmazon and Barnes and Noble. To visit the author's website, click here.


16 comments:

Beachreader said...

Another book for my TBR list. I have read only great things anout this book. Thanks for the insightful (and convincing)review.

Misha said...

You've convinced me to read this book! The Good Daughter seems like a powerful read. Lili sounds very inspiring!

Nina Happyendings said...

I haven't read a lot of biographys, but this sounds one that will really grab your attention. I'm adding this book to the list! Great review.

hcmurdoch said...

Great review! I am impressed that you can write such a good review so long after finishing a book. This one sounds so good, are you willing to link it to my Middle East Reading Challenge so others will see it as well?

ChewDigest said...

I am putting this one on my list, memoirs of people that live in a culture that I don't know or experience intrigue me. I think we can learn so much by just walking a mile in their shoes.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy... said...

Oh my goodness! It sounds so powerful! Awesome review.

Athira / Aths said...

Yay! You SHOULD read it! It's just so awesome and a page-turner. I can't wait to hear your thoughts whenever you read it!

Athira / Aths said...

It is! I never expected to love this book when I started it. It looked like a regular memoir initially, but it turned to be so amazing!

Athira / Aths said...

Thank you! I hope you love this book too! Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Athira / Aths said...

I usually can't write a decent review after more than a couple of weeks since reading a book. But this book was so good that the words just flowed.

And yep, I'm going to add this book to the Middle East Challenge list. Can't wait to get the word out!

Athira / Aths said...

I agree! Things just look so different, so strange from a different perspective, and yet there are so many similarities too. It just feels fascinating reading about different cultures - inevitably everyone responds the same way to the same trigger.

Athira / Aths said...

Thank you!

Vasilly said...

I just read another blogger's review on this same book a few hours ago!! You guys really make me want to read this now. I've just requested it from NetGalley. Great review.

Athira / Aths said...

Yay! I can't wait to hear what you think! I just loved this on!

Ladydi1780 said...

Ah! Can't wait to read this now. I'm kicking myself for not going to the library yesterday to pick it up....it's on hold waiting for me!

Athira / Aths said...

I can't wait to hear what you think! I haven't seen too many reviews of this book so I'm eager to see more opinions.