Summary and book reviews of Moon Brow by Sara Khalili

Moon Brow by Sara Khalili, Shahriar Mandanipour X
Moon Brow by Sara Khalili, Shahriar Mandanipour
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Apr 2018, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jamie Samson
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About this Book

Book Summary

From "one of Iran's most important living fiction writers" (The Guardian) comes a fantastically imaginative story of love and war narrated by two angel scribes perched on the shoulders of a shell-shocked Iranian soldier who's searching for the mysterious woman haunting his dreams.

Before he enlisted as a soldier in the Iran–Iraq war and disappeared, Amir Yamini was a carefree playboy whose only concerns were seducing women and riling his religious family. Five years later, his mother and sister Reyhaneh find him in a mental hospital for shell-shocked soldiers, his left arm and most of his memory lost. Amir is haunted by the vision of a mysterious woman whose face he cannot see - the crescent moon on her forehead shines too brightly. He names her Moon Brow.

Back home in Tehran, the prodigal son is both hailed as a living martyr to the cause of Ayatollah Khomeini's Revolution and confined as a dangerous madman. His sense of humor, if not his sanity, intact, Amir cajoles Reyhaneh into helping him escape the garden walls to search for Moon Brow. Piecing together the puzzle of his past, Amir decides there's only one solution: he must return to the battlefield and find the remains of his severed arm - and discover its secret.

All the while, twin scribes - the angel of virtue and the angel of sin - sit on our hero's shoulders and narrate the story in enthrallingly distinctive prose. Wildly inventive and radically empathetic, steeped in Persian folklore and contemporary Middle East history, Moon Brow is the great Iranian novelist Shahriar Mandanipour's unforgettable epic of love, war, morality, faith, and family.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How does the narration, alternating between two angel scribes that sit on Amir's shoulders,  shape your reading experience? Why do you think the author chose to write the novel this  way?
  2. Apart from the innovative narrative technique, ?Moon Brow ?is also a story that plays with time  and space. How does the non-linear progression of the narration align with the story and its  protagonist?
  3. How do the descriptions of Amir's environment—his home, the garden, the mountains, the  hospital—interplay with those of his wartime traumas, physical and psychological?
  4. What is the importance of Baba Shahu's character in Amir's journey? Is he a metaphor?
  5. How is Amir's quest to find his the remains of his arm ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Filtered almost exclusively through Amir's muddled consciousness, Moon Brow is intimate in its inquiries and epic in its scope, ushering the reader through some of the most turbulent decades in Iranian history, and from locations as diverse as the polluted heat-haze of modern Tehran to the burning battlefields of the Iran-Iraq War, to the near-mystical calm and beauty of the Caspian Sea. Mandanipour reminds us that true humanity belongs not in the grey corridors of officialdom or on the faces of unsmiling ayatollahs and bureaucrats, but with the common dreamers and drifters whom they purport to represent. Perhaps, when utopian dreams fail—as they do, over and over, in Moon Brow—the only appropriate laughter, to borrow one of Nabokov's timeless phrases, is laughter in the dark...continued

Full Review (843 words).

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(Reviewed by Jamie Samson).

Media Reviews

Booklist
Starred Review. [A] dazzling mosaic of a troubled young man and a troubled yet gloriously rich nation.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A remarkable vision of the elusiveness of redemption and love.

Library Journal
Starred Review. These scenes are ingeniously imparted by two scribes: Amir’s more manageable self, reputedly perched on his right shoulder, and a demonically angry self perched on his left, mirroring his split soul and that of his country...Highly recommended for literary lovers.

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Beyond the Book

The Iran-Iraq War

The 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran, which forms the backdrop to Moon Brow, is widely considered one of the bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth century. At least one million lives are estimated to have been lost, half of them civilians. The eight-year standoff is said to have cost its aggressors a combined one trillion dollars, an astonishing figure for what was a largely conventional war.

Territorial and tribal disputes have always marked the relationship between Iran and Iraq, but by the time war broke out in 1980, diplomatic relations had reached an alarmingly low point. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution—which overthrew Tehran's despotic Shah and declared Iran an Islamic state, ruled by the Ayatollah Khomeini—Iraqi ...

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