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Starred review

Author: Terry Hong
Newspaper: Booklist
Date: Nov 15 2019

Although the page facing the title of Azar’s first novel to be translated into English clearly states, “Translated from the Farsi,” the linguistic enabler remains anonymous; the publisher’s official line is, “the translator of this book has asked not to be named out of fears for his/her safety.” Author Azar is no stranger to danger, having escaped to Australia as a political refugee in 2011. Her fiction rings too true, bearing witness to the heinous atrocities suffered by bewildered everyday citizens in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the monarchy and installed Ayatollah Khomeini’s brutal regime. The titular, albeit mournfully ironic, enlightenment happens to Mom at 2:35 p.m. on August 18, 1988, atop the greengage plum tree at the exact moment when her son, Sohrab, is hanged without trial and his body is about to be dumped into a mass grave with hundreds of victims of the same injustice. Sohrab is her second murdered child, the first having been Bahar, burned alive at 13, whose death doesn’t prevent her from existing among and communicating with the living. The future of the family’s surviving child, Beeta, remains threatened. Despite the relentless tragedy, Azar’s narrative exudes fairy tale charm driven by moments of deep connection that ultimately celebrate human and humane bonds unbroken even in death.