The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali [in Booklist]
Adroitly adapting her deep, mellifluous voice across continents, decades, ages, and genders, Mozhan Marnò flawlessly embodies Marjan Kamali’s (Together Tea, 2013) stupendous sophomore title about young lovers torn apart by class, politics, and history during the violent tumult of 1950s Iran. A Tehran stationery shop becomes the setting where schoolgirl Roya and activist Bahman fall in love, become engaged, and almost marry. Despite their devotion – enabled by shopowner Mr. Fakhri, who is himself no stranger to thwarted first love – separation proves inevitable.
A devastated Roya is eventually (miraculously) sent to college in California with her sister Zari. She marries patient, adoring Bostonian Walter, experiences setbacks and celebrations, but never quite forgets what might have been a very different life. Six decades pass and septuagenarian Roya walks into another stationery shop, eerily familiar, to learn that Bahman lives in a retirement facility nearby. Their reunion is destined, and finally both lovers will have their life-long, elusive answers.
With effortless ease, ever-chimerical Marnò assumes Roya’s desperation, Bahman’s determination, Fakhri’s helplessness, Zari’s easy adaptability, Bahman’s mother’s manipulations, Walter’s easy acceptance, and so much more. A remarkable cipher for Kamali’s vast cast, Marnò renders the printed word into aural revelry.