The first voice we hear in Gina B. Nahai's second novel is that of Lili, the grown daughter of a miraculous mother. When Lili was 5 and living in the Jewish ghetto of Tehran, her mother, Roxanna, "had grown wings, one night when the darkness was the color of her dreams, and flown into the star-studded night of Iran that claimed her." Thirteen years would pass, Lili informs us, before she would find her mother again. This short introduction serves as a framing device for the story of Roxanna's life, a life begun as a "bad-luck" child. According to her sister, Miriam the Moon, she "had been a runaway before she ever became a wife or a mother, before she came into existence or was even conceived."
There is an unwritten rule that any book featuring such character names as Roxanna the Angel, Miriam the Moon, and Alexandra the Cat must also contain a great deal of magical realism; Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith lives up to expectations. In addition to Roxanna's winged departure from her home and family, there are episodes involving illuminated sunflowers, dreams of flight that result in beds of white feathers, and Roxanna's final illness, a "mysterious fluid that ... started to fill her body like a poisonous presence, that oozed out of the corner of her eyes, swelled her arms and legs till she had no more use of them and turned her once-magical voice into a gurgling whisper." Besides the miraculous, this novel has undeniable sweep, beginning in Tehran, touching down in Turkey, and ending up in Los Angeles many years later with hair-raising adventures punctuating each change of address. Gina B. Nahai has crafted a lyrical novel reminiscent of the work of Isabelle Allende. Readers with a taste for the fantastic will enjoy this tale. --Alix Wilber
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From Publishers Weekly
Iranian author Nahai's (Cry of the Peacock) richly embroidered, mythopoeic new novel is a tale worthy of Scheherazade. Miriam the Moon weaves for her niece Lili the spellbinding story of how Lili's mother, Roxanna the Angel, in the grip of a destiny she could not control, abandoned her five-year-old daughter without explanation and vanished into the Iranian night; she remained missing for the next 13 years. ("Free will and conscious decisions are mere inventions of minds too feeble to accept the reality of our absurd existence," Miriam tells Lily.) Beginning with Roxanna's birth in 1938 in the Jewish ghetto of Tehran, the narrative moves assuredly through her family's history and into her legend. At the time of her disappearance, in 1971, the point of view shifts from third to first person, the voice of Lili, the abandoned child. Six-year-old Lili is put on an airplane and sent off to a dreary Catholic boarding school in Pasadena, where she meets her guardian angel, a childhood friend of Roxanna's named Mercedez the Movie Star. Meanwhile, in Iran, the Shah's corrupt regime is overthrown by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and in the wave of Jewish persecution that follows, Miriam the Moon and her family flee to L.A. Eventually, Roxanna is spied in Turkey, and an affecting reunion with Lili ensues, although the ending, meant to be symbolic, does not quite ring true. The story moves along briskly, yet with a surreal edge, filled with characters who have such names as Alexandra the Cat and Jacob the Jello. The larger-than-life personalities of Roxanna and her family shine convincingly in the sections devoted to Iran, markedly less so when transplanted to L.A. Lili's struggle to know who she is, while fluidly rendered, lacks the resonance of Roxanna's, whose tale is marvelously compelling. 35,000 first printing; author tour; foreign rights sold to Germany, Sweden, Italy, the U.K., Greece and Holland.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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