Thank you to Gallery Books for sending me an advanced reader copy of The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali.
Roya is a dreamy, idealistic teenager who finds a literary oasis in Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood book and stationery shop. Amidst the political upheaval in Tehran, she finds a haven in his dusty store, overflowing with fountain pens, shiny ink bottles, and think pads of soft writing paper.
With a keen instinct for a budding romance, Mr. Fakhri introduces Roya to his other favorite customer— the handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry. As their romance blossoms with every dinner in the chic cafes of Tehran, dancing at tango parties in a time of social liberation and participating in electrifying political rallies, the modest little stationery shop remains their favorite secret place.
On the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square, but suddenly, violence erupts— a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future— and in the chaos, Batman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless, and with a sorrowful heart, she resigns herself to never seeing him again.
More than sixty years have gone by and Roya has moved to America and settled in New England. Then an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did you leave? Where did you go? How is that you were able to forget me?
My book club chose this for our July book pick and having heard nothing but good reviews, I was excited to have the opportunity to dive in. I had read the synopsis but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this novel. While the synopsis is excellent and gets at the heart of what the book is about, I think that it’s necessary to say that there is SO much more that goes into the story of Roya and Bahman.
The Stationery Shop also served as an unforgettable history lesson for me. I am familiar with the Tehran of today but I was unaware of what it used to be. Marjan Kamali did an incredible job of portraying the political upheaval that took place in the 1950s that ultimately led to Tehran becoming what it is today. I feel like I missed out on an important historical lesson of this region while in school and plan to learn more about it in the future.
This story that takes place over decades fully encompasses what Roya’s life was like when she met Bahman but also what her life was like after he didn’t show up in the town square. This was an eye-opening book that explored issues of immigration and cultural assimilation, as well as unbreakable family bonds, the depths of love and loss, and that quirks of fate.
Thank you, again, to Gallery Books for sending me this advanced copy. I enjoyed being transported back in time and learning about history. The Stationery Shop was released on June 18, 2019.