This novel is a poignant tale of a family caught in the changing of the guard, transported into a world where their every move is suspect. On one uneventful day in 1981, after the Iranian revolution, gem trader Isaac Amin is arrested by the Revolutionary Guards in his Tehran office and transported to prison, where he is interrogated. As a Jew, Amin is immediately suspect, especially since his lucrative business takes him frequently to Israel. Now his entire world is threatened, the government suspicious that he is a spy for Israel. It doesn't help that Amin's brother has been smuggling alcohol over the border, in strict defiance of the law. Muslim fanaticism is on the rise, Isaac's family in the crosshairs, as Jews and because of their wealthy lifestyle.
While Isaac is left in a dank cell with other men, all to be systematically interrogated, he ponders the viability of ever leaving this place, let alone surviving the increasingly brutal interrogation techniques used to obtain the desired responses form the prisoners. Daily he listens to the firing squads, the moans from fellow prisoners who have been tortured and the muezzin's call to prayer. Regretting that he could not inform his wife, Farnaz, of his dire circumstances, Amin looks inward, revisiting the early days of their marriage, before they became careless of the relationship. Learning of her husband's fate, Farnaz is thrust into despair, fighting the depression that overwhelms her whenever she considers life without Isaac, navigating the days as if a sleepwalker.
Nine-year-old Shirin is told at first that her father is on an extended trip; but she is aware of her mother's anguish and seeks to alleviate Farnaz' pain by hoarding her own fears, hiding files she has stolen from the home of a friend whose father works for the Revolutionary Guards. Meanwhile, Parviz, the son attending college in New York, battles his own intense isolation in the city, waiting for money from home that never arrives. In coded phone calls, Parviz understands that his father is in jeopardy, the future uncertain. Each family member endures this painful isolation, existing in a sort of stasis, unsure how to resolve their dilemma, escaping the frightening circumstances of their days by remembering softer, kinder times, the Septembers of Shiraz.
The very fabric of their lives destroyed by the revolution, Isaac is inextricably tied to the shah's regime; there is literally no future for this family save escape. It is that painful truth that so defines the daily activities of each: Isaac's delivery into the hands of his torturers, desperate to avoid the fate of his fellow prisoners; Farnaz' gradual acceptance of a future without the luxuries she has long taken for granted, vaguely threatened but unable to take action; Shirin's theft of the dossiers that may bring swift and brutal repercussions to her doorstep; the once-loyal house servant who makes increasingly critical judgments of her employers and may be a spy; and Parviz' longing for family connections far from those he loves. Balancing the brutality of revolution with one family's fragile hopes, Sofer illustrates the chaos and fear of a world turned upside down, the Amin's driven to seek safety far from home. Luan Gaines/2007.