Excerpt from Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour, Sara Khalili, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour, Sara Khalili X
Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour, Sara Khalili
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    Apr 2018, 464 pages

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Jamie Samson

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Excerpt
Moon Brow

Two scribes, one on Amir's right and the other on his left shoulder, take turns narrating the shell-shocked soldier's story. Recently released from a mental asylum, Amir is convinced that he has forgotten something important and he desperately wants his sister, Reyhaneh, to help him remember. He is haunted by the dream of an elusive, ethereal woman whose face is always hidden by a glow as though from a crescent moon on her forehead. Amir's present story, back in Tehran with his sister, is interpolated by flashbacks to his past as a louche loverboy and as a soldier in the trenches of the Iran-Iraq war.

The scribe on his right shoulder writes:

From the full-length window in Reyhaneh's room, he looks out at the rainy, leafless garden and it occurs to him …

«It is good that the second floor is always the second floor.»

He sees the fog wafting from the soil beneath the naked trees, a hesitant fog with a hint of violet.

The sound of rainwater in the gutters of the old building grows louder.

Reyhaneh asks, "How can it be that in your dreams you see nothing of the girl's face?

" "I don't know. Her face is hazy. Perhaps I see it, but it doesn't stay in my memory. Maybe she has covered her face with a chador … I don't know. Sometimes I remember her hair, like a shadow. I think it's very long. All the way down below her breasts. I may have seen her naked. Her hair covered her breasts."

"Hey! Watch it!"

"What?"

"You're talking to your innocent dewy-eyed sister!"

"Don't play games with me, not you. … What if there is a crescent moon on her forehead and it shines so bright that I can't see her face?"

"This is all a tall tale."

"My dreams are not tales. In many of them I see us putting rings on each other's fingers."

"So what!" Reyhaneh snickers. "That's nothing. I dream that a prince comes to our house to ask for my hand in marriage and we get engaged."

She stares at him warily and says, "Maybe you had a bitter or painful experience that you subconsciously wanted to forget."

"That is what the idiot doctor at the nuthouse said. But I want you to help me remember. Tell me! What happened back then that could somehow be related to these dreams?"

"How should I know? As far as I could tell, up until the day you went crazy and enlisted to go to war, you were always having fun with girls. I was wrong to say that you might have had a bad experience. In those days, you were too clueless to know the difference between a good experience and a bad one. And these are just dreams … nice dreams. I'm surprised they frighten you."

"I am often frightened, and then I become even more frightened because I don't know what it is that I'm frightened of."

Reyhaneh's old samovar is gently simmering. He sees the fragrance of the forty-four wintersweet bushes in the garden float toward the house like layers of dragonfly wings.

"All I know is that you have to be patient, to stay calm. And don't forget, God has not abandoned you. You went to war, fine. You faked your way into the nuthouse, fine. But we finally found you and brought you home. This means that God has not abandoned you."

He stares at the mole on Reyhaneh's face. Above the curve of her plump lips. To the left. Embarrassed, Reyhaneh looks down.

"But I have abandoned God. He is useless; he is not missing an arm. He has forgotten that he is God."

He gets up from the bentwood chair and again paces the length of the room.

"This God that you love, what joy did he bring to your miserable life? Turning you into an old spinster in this damn house."

Contrary to his expectation, Reyhaneh does not reveal the pain of his sting.

«Rain of rains, drop by drop it glides down the windowpane. And in its streams, fragments of the garden's nakedness—almond trees, cherry trees, small, tightly packed wintersweet flowers. And two streams flowing diagonally join and become one. It means … one plus one is one. It is just that one glides faster. I should remember, from the window in Reyhaneh's second-floor bedroom, I can see that the top half of the old eucalyptus tree still has leaves. Its leaves, its old branches, its cuckoo's nest, grooved by streaks of rain. … »

He does not have the heart to look at his Alfa Romeo that has sat abandoned for years under the eucalyptus tree. It has rusted. Its tires are flat.

Excerpted from Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour. Copyright © 2018 by Shahriar Mandanipour. Excerpted by permission of Restless Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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