Nassim Assefi, Author . Harcourt $23 (258p) ISBN 978-0-15-101293-0

Devastated by the accidental death of her five-year-old daughter, Aria, and still mourning for Aria's father, Justin, who died months before Aria's birth, Iranian-American Yasaman (Jasmine) Talahi embarks on a somber voyage of grief, with mixed results for Assefi's debut. From Arizona's Sonoran desert to the maize fields of Guatemala (where Aria's father had been a Peace Corps worker) to the holy places of Tibet, Jasmine, an oncologist schooled in rationality, searches for the spiritual enlightenment that might bring about her own healing. In the end, her yearlong odyssey brings her to Iran and to her parents, who reject her modern American lifestyle and with whom she has not spoken since before Aria's birth. Assefi, herself an Iranian-American physician, employs an awkward epistolary format, having Jasmine write to Aria, to Justin, to her long-dead grandmother, to friends and an ex-lover (some of whom write back). The letters are often stiffly formal, and the background information reads as forced. But Assefi's themes—loss as physical distance and the spiritual harm that can result from solitary grieving—come through. (May)

Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
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