Excerpt from A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Good Country

by Laleh Khadivi

A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi X
A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi
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  • First Published:
    May 2017, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2018, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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About this Book

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1
Laguna Beach, California, Fall 2011



They told him it was the best, there was nothing better. After they started, at twelve and thirteen and fourteen, his friends tried to convince him to try it. Rez, dude, they'd say, it's no big deal. You don't puke. You don't pass out. No one can even tell. It's like daydreaming, like that second just before you fall asleep, but for hours, they said, for the whole of eighth grade, their eyes glazed with the shine of the newly converted, and by tenth grade they gave up and now, start of junior year, it was habit to make fun of him every time there was occasion, every time they circled up to light and puff and smoke, these friends.

If he wanted, it could have happened last night, or even two weeks ago when Johnson's parents were in L.A. at an industry party and Johnson opened his house to anyone with a six-pack or a girl or a bag of weed. At midnight Rez found them in the laundry room, empty beer bottles and half-smoked cigarettes all over the place, and he sat and drank and talked like everyone else. When it was finally rolled and passed, Rez stood up right before his turn.

I gotta piss, and walked out of the circle.

Bullshit, coughed Johnson, the smoke coming out of his mouth in big clouds.

We all know you can't hang, Rez. Never have. Never will. Those Persians keep a tight leash on their kids . . .

He felt a few laughs at his back but kept going, out of the laundry room, down the hallway, out of the house, and into the backyard, where kids rolled around on the perfect grass, swam half naked in the pool, and ran hand in hand to dark corners. He found a spot by the fence, beside the empty dog crates and gardening tools, and let go, his heart one big pump and burst, pump and burst, as the piss rushed out of him in a long furious stream.

*

He didn't know what he was afraid of. It wasn't like with the girls, a want and a want and a want until everything centered in his crotch and he moved forward without thought, without fear. No, this was different. He wanted it, to be inside the circle, to stay and smoke and laugh and feel whatever it was that was so good, but he couldn't stand the complete unknown. What if I lose it? What if I black out? What if I start crying? What if I get addicted? How much trouble will I be in if Dad finds out? All the trouble. I'll be in all the trouble.

In the dark yard he felt his father about him, a thick outline traced atop his own body. He looked around, shook himself dry, zipped up, and walked back to the house. He moved from room to room, looking, thinking, and tried to bring himself to do all that was being done by the kids in his grade and the sophomores and juniors and seniors above him, and the more he saw, the more he wanted to go home. A girl from chemistry lab caught his arm and pulled him into a doorway and then into a room of people, who saw him and yelled, Yeah! Rez! Dare! Dare! Dare! And he drank vodka straight from the bottle up to the count of ten and then stuck his head and hands up Sophia Lim's shirt to feel the smooth mounds and tiny buttons of nipples and wanted badly to suck but did not. When it was over and everyone clapped and yelled and Sophia turned away and tucked in her shirt, Rez walked quickly back outside and threw up in a planter of cacti. He lay down on a lawn chair, shivered, and spat the sour out of his mouth and counted the nine stars above him again and again, until Matthews showed up and said it was time.

Let's go home, man. I'm through with this.

They left without saying good-bye and found Kelly passed out in the back of the Matthewses' SUV, his hoodie backward on his head, face covered, arms crossed like a kind of corpse.

Dude. Get up. This isn't a hotel.

Matthews poked him and pulled the hoodie down and poked him again until Kelly sat up, yawned, and made a face at Rez.

Excerpted from A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi. Copyright © 2017 by Laleh Khadivi. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury USA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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