Excerpt from The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Blood of Flowers

A Novel

by Anita Amirrezvani

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani X
The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2007, 384 pages

    May 2008, 400 pages


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“How many people live here?” my mother asked, raising her voice so it could be heard above the din of passersby.

“Hundreds of thousands,” replied Abdul-Rahman. “More than in London or Paris; only Constantinople is bigger.”

My mother and I said “Voy!” at the same time; we could not imagine so many souls in one place.

After crossing the bridge, we entered a covered bazaar and passed through a spice market. Burlap bags overflowed with mint, dill, coriander, dried lemon, turmeric, saffron, and many spices I didn’t recognize. I distinguished the flowery yet bitter odor of fenugreek, which set my mouth watering for a lamb stew, for we had not tasted meat in many months.

Before long, we reached a caravanserai run by Abdul-Rahman’s brother. It had a courtyard where donkeys, mules, and horses could rest, surrounded by a rectangular arcade of private rooms. We thanked Abdul-Rahman and his wife for escorting us, wished them well, and paid for our lodgings.

Our room was small, with thick windowless walls and a strong lock. There was clean straw on the floor, but nothing else for bedding.

“I’m hungry,” I said to my mother, remembering the lamb kebab I had seen grilling near the bridge.

She untied the corners of a dirty piece of cloth and looked sadly at the few coins remaining there. “We must bathe before seeking out our family,” she replied. “Let’s eat the last of our bread.”

It was dry and brittle, so we endured the emptiness in our bellies and lay down to sleep. The ground was hard compared with the sand of the desert, and I felt unbalanced, for I had become used to the gentle tipping motion of my camel. Still, I was weary enough from our long journey to fall asleep not long after putting my head down on the straw. In the middle of the night, I began dreaming that my Baba was tugging on my foot to wake me for one of our Friday walks. I jumped to my feet to follow him, but he had already passed through the door. I tried to catch up; all I could see was his back as he advanced up a mountain path. The faster I ran, the faster he climbed. When I screamed his name, he didn’t stop or turn around. I awoke in a sweat, confused, the straw prickling my back.


“I’m here, daughter of mine,” my mother replied in the darkness. “You were calling out for your Baba.”

“He left without me,” I mumbled, still caught in the web of my dreams.

My mother pulled me to her and began stroking my forehead. I lay next to her with my eyes closed, but I couldn’t sleep. Sighing, I turned first this way, then the other. A donkey began braying in the courtyard, and it sounded as if he were weeping over his fate. Then my mother began speaking, and her voice seemed to brighten the gloom:

    First there wasn’t and then there was. Before God, no one was.

My mother had comforted me with tales ever since I was small. Sometimes they helped me peel a problem like an onion, or gave me ideas about what to do; other times, they calmed me so much that I would fall into a soothing sleep. My father used to say that her tales were better than the best medicine. Sighing, I burrowed into my mother’s body like a child, knowing that the sound of her voice would be a balm on my heart.

    Once there was a peddler’s daughter named Golnar who spent her days toiling in her family’s garden. Her cucumbers were praised for being crisp and sweet; her squashes for growing into large, pleasing shapes dense with flesh; and her radishes for their fragrant burn. Because the girl had a passionate love of flowers, she begged her father to allow her to plant a single rosebush in a corner of the garden. Even though her family was poor and needed every morsel of food she grew, her father rewarded her by granting her wish.

    Copyright © 2007 by Anita Amirrezvani

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