cover image Caspian Rain

Caspian Rain

Gina Nahai, . . MacAdam/Cage, $25 (298pp) ISBN 978-1-59692-251-8

In her stirring fourth novel, Nahai explores the struggles of an Iranian family in the tenuous decade before the Islamic revolution. Twelve-year-old Yaas narrates her family’s story, beginning before her birth at her parents’ unlikely meeting. Her mother, Bahar, lives in the Jewish slums with her less-than-respectable family—among them, “a seamstress who can’t sew,” “a cantor who can’t sing,” a Muslim convert and a ghost. Bahar’s fortuitous encounter with Omid Arbab, the son of wealthy Iranian Jews, results in a marriage that quickly disintegrates, due to class pressures and Bahar’s desire for a measure of independence. Yaas then embarks on what is, at times, an overly lyrical account of her difficult and lonely childhood. She senses that she is an unwelcome disappointment to her mother, whose behavior toward her daughter ranges from inattentive to cruel. When Omid becomes involved in a public affair with the wealthy and beautiful Niyaz and Yaas begins going deaf, the Arbab family spirals out of control. Despite a clunky subplot involving Bahar’s ghost brother and a too-easy resolution, the novel is a poignant tale of a “damaged family.” (Sept.)