Review | Marjan Kamali’s The Stationery Shop

Ambitious, Beautifully Executed Novel

Tehran, Iran, 1953, a time of political change, of hope for democracy and self-determination. Two teenagers, Roya and Bahman, have a chance meeting in a stationery shop that will forever alter the course of their lives, leading them to an improbable meeting 60 years later — after the coup that abruptly ended the short reign of Prime Minister Mossadegh, the revolution of 1979 that deposed the Shah, marriage to other people, the birth and death of children — in a senior center in Massachusetts. 

The Stationery Shop, the second novel by Marjan Kamali, is a big, ambitious, beautifully executed novel that draws the reader in and never lets go. It’s the story of youthful love that recognizes no boundaries, either of time or distance, beginning in a society governed by fixed norms of class, tradition, and social status, where roles are defined by one’s gender and family name, and ending a lifetime later in America. In between, there is a tragic misunderstanding, sorrow, and heartache. 

“The past was always there,” Kamali writes, “lurking in the corners, winking at you when you thought you’d moved on, hanging on to your organs from the inside.” Love might not conquer every obstacle, but for Roya and Bahman it endures over decades, the memory of its flowering as vivid as it was when the world felt brand-new and their eyes were clear and bright, their faces and hearts untouched by time. 


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