cover image Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story)

Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story)

Daniel Nayeri. Levine Querido, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-64614-000-8

Marked by a distinctive voice—a straightforward mix of confiding, slyly humorous, and unsentimentally sorrowful—Nayeri’s (Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow) impressive autobiographical novel is narrated by 12-year-old Khosrou, known as Daniel, who models himself after the legendary Scheherazade. The chapterless “patchwork story” follows Daniel through his dreamlike early childhood in Iran, a year in an Italian refugee camp with his sister and “unstoppable” mother (but without his larger-than-life father, who chose to stay behind), and their eventual asylum in Oklahoma. The text moves nimbly back and forth in time, depicting with equal vividness ancient Persian tales (a jasmine-scented village with saffron fields, courtyards, and fountains), family history (a legendary ancestral doctor), and the challenges of navigating life as an outsider in “a land of concrete and weathermen.” Interspersed with his experiences is the narrator’s accumulated wisdom on a broad range of subjects—cultural differences in bathroom habits, the creation of Persian rugs, the roots of today’s conflicts between Shiites and Sunnis—which help establish Daniel’s identity as a knowledgeable, thoughtful storyteller. Mesmerizing and hard-hitting at once, this work of personal mythology is a rare treasure of a book. Ages 10–up. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary. (Aug.)