Summary and book reviews of The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

The Stationery Shop

A Novel

by Marjan Kamali

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali X
The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2019, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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About this Book

Book Summary

A powerful love story exploring loss, reconciliation, and the quirks of fate.

Roya is a dreamy, idealistic teenager living in 1953 Tehran who, amidst the political upheaval of the time, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri's neighborhood book and stationery shop. She always feels safe in his dusty store, overflowing with fountain pens, shiny ink bottles, and thick pads of soft writing paper.

When Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi's poetry—she loses her heart at once. And, as their romance blossoms, the modest little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.

A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square, but suddenly, violence erupts—a result of the coup d'etat that forever changes their country's future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she resigns herself to never seeing him again.

Until, more than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did he leave? Where did he go? How was he able to forget her?

The Stationery Shop is a beautiful and timely exploration of devastating loss, unbreakable family bonds, and the overwhelming power of love.

Chapter One
2013

The Center

"I made an appointment to see him."

She said it as if she were seeing the dentist or a therapist or the pushy refrigerator salesman who had promised her and Walter a lifetime guarantee of cold milk and crisp vegetables and unspoiled cheese if only they would buy this brand-new model.

Walter dried the dishes, his gaze on the kitchen towel and its print of a yellow chick holding an umbrella. He didn't argue. Walter Archer's penchant for logic, his ability to let reason trump all, was a testament to Roya's own good judgment. For hadn't she married a man who was reasonable and, my goodness, unbelievably understanding? Hadn't she, in the end, not married that boy, the one she had met so many decades ago in a small stationery shop in Tehran, but lassoed her life instead to this Massachusetts-born pillar of stability? This Walter. Who ate a hard-boiled egg for breakfast almost every single day, who said as he dried the dishes, "If you want to see him, then you should....

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The first two chapters show us very different stages in Roya's life. Discuss the similarities and differences between her life as a married woman in New England and her life as a teenager living in Tehran.
  2. On page 3, Roya observes, "For hadn't she married a man who was reasonable and, my goodness, unbelievably understanding? Hadn't she, in the end, not married that boy, the one she met so many decades ago in a small stationery shop in Tehran, but lassoed her life instead to this Massachusetts-born pillar of stability?" How are Bahman and Walter different? How are they similar? What do you think Roya was looking for in each of them? How do her expectations for a relationship change throughout the story?
  3. On page 56, after discovering ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A testament to the enduring powers of storytelling and first love, The Stationery Shop is likely to be a favorite with booksellers and book groups. The author’s website provides a reading guide; the novel absolutely invites reading and discussion along with sweet or savory Iranian cuisine...continued

Full Review (825 words).

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(Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Media Reviews

Boston Magazine
Grab your tissues...Marjan Kamali’s second novel channels love in the time of coup d’états. Set among the political upheaval of 1950s Tehran, The Stationery Shop follows teenager Roya as she discovers the power of love, loss, and then, decades later, fate. And did we mention you’ll need tissues?

Booklist
Kamali paints an evocative portrait of 1950s Iran and its political upheaval, and she cleverly writes the heartbreak of Roya and Bahman's romance to mirror the tragic recent history of their country. Simultaneously briskly paced and deeply moving, this will appeal to fans of Khaled Hosseini and should find a wide audience.

Library Journal
The unfurling stories in Kamali's sophomore novel (after Together Tea) will stun readers as the aromas of Persian cooking wafting throughout convince us that love can last a lifetime. For those who enjoy getting caught up in romance while discovering unfamiliar history of another country.

Kirkus Reviews
A sweeping romantic tale of thwarted love.

Author Blurb Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light
Evocative, devastating, and hauntingly beautiful, The Stationery Shop explores love's power to transcend time and distance—and the ways fate can tear people apart and bring them back together. This book broke my heart again and again.

Author Blurb Elinor Lipman, author of Good Riddance and Turpentine Lane
What a pleasure—a novel that is all at once masterfully plotted, beautifully written, and populated by characters who are arresting, lovable and so real. Brava, Marjan Kamali; now that I've finished, I miss this world of yours.

Author Blurb Alyson Richman, international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Secret of Clouds
Set against the political turmoil of 1950's Tehran, Marjan Kamali's The Stationery Shop illuminates how love is experienced over time and influenced by the fingerprints of others. Yet. despite every obstacle, the power of heart and memory endure. A beautiful and sensitive novel that I loved from the first page.

Author Blurb Jasmin Darznik, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Daughter and Song Of A Captive Bird
A beautifully immersive tale, The Stationery Shop brings to life a lost and complex world and the captivating characters who once called it home.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

A wonderful read.
“Look, Zari, being in love is difficult to explain. When you know it’s right, you just know. There’s no avoiding it. It’s like … it’s like a tree has fallen on your head.” The Stationary Shop of Tehran is the second novel by Turkish-born author, ...   Read More
BW

Engaging but Predictable
I enjoyed the first 2/3 of this book, but the last third tried to tie up loose ends . It was accomplished with a long letter. Not very good and very superficial. I would not recommend this book.

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Beyond the Book

Iranian Cuisine

In Marjan Kamali's novel The Stationery Shop, Iranian food plays a central role, whether a simple melon smoothie drink, hot tea sweetened with rock sugar candy (nabat), or a more complicated feast for Persian New Year. Traditional cuisine from Iran, also known as Persia, is a mélange of many cultures partly due to a vibrant trading history, situated along the ancient Silk Road.

TahdigMost Iranian meals include rice. In the novel, Roya uses basmati rice to prepare crunchy rice called tahdig. To accompany the rice, a popular choice is gormeh sabzi, which is a stew simmered with lamb and beans, liberally seasoned with coriander, parsley, scallions, and other herbs. Dried limes add a sour flavor. Roya goes to a special market in the San ...

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