Book of the Week: The Girl from the Garden –

Pretty much everyone who has picked up this debut novel has sung its praises. It received three starred advances reviews and I’m expecting a lot more at on sale. Readers are so enthusiastic that I found about it even before it was presented at sales conference thanks to a bookseller who read it early for Indies Introduce. Bill Carl sent me this; it’s a perfect summary of the plot and themes.

The Girl from the Garden is a wonderful novel dealing with a subject completely alien to me…Jewish families living in Iran during the 1950s and 1960s.  Told in flashback from the point of view of an elderly woman who immigrated to America and currently tends her garden in California, the book reflects upon the first wife of the second son of a wealthy Jewish family in Tehran.  She is unable to carry a baby to maturity, so her husband finds a second wife, a disgraced woman who has born a daughter but was forced to give her away.  The clash between the two wives leads to a palpably intense atmosphere in the home.  You could cut it with a knife!  The book beautifully shows how it feels to be displaced–as a woman, a wife, a religious group– as well as telling a story that will call to mind Khaled Hosseini.  This will be of special interest to women, Jewish people, and book clubs.  The writing is lovely, even when the subject matter becomes tawdry and frightening.  If this book finds the right audience, it could be a breakout.”

Based on her own family’s experience, Foroutan not only offers a suspenseful and emotionally intricate plot, she creates a vivid and intimate portrait of a lost time and place. Small wonder that it was selected as a Summer 2015 Indies Introduce Pick.

 “Foroutan’s richly layered debut explores the dark political maneuverings inside a single household in a Jewish enclave in Iran. When Rakhel marries Asher Malacouti, the most prosperous Jewish businessman in the town of Kermanshah, it seems like an ideal match. Asher is consumed with the need to have a male child to inherit the business, and Rakhel is desperate to conceive, but she appears to be barren….After several years, Asher takes the radical step of taking a second wife: his cousin’s disgraced ex-wife, Kokab, whom he has lusted after for years. Rakhel resorts first to subtle manipulation and then to more drastic measures in order to retain her husband’s attentions and keep her place in the household secure….Rakhel’s slow descent into darkness exhilaratingly propels the plot, and Foroutan’s sumptuous prose paints a vivid portrait of a rarely explored historical and cultural setting.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 In this stunning first novel, Foroutan draws on her own family history to integrate the lore and traditions of old Iran. Suspenseful and haunting, this riveting story of jealousy, sacrifice, and betrayal and the intimately drawn characters within will not be easily forgotten.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Foroutan’s lyrical debut offers a mosaic of stories evoking life within a wealthy Jewish home in Kermanshah, Iran…Deftly structured, this novel traces those complications to their core, exposing the pain, oppressive forces, and difficult allegiances within and without the estate, while lending grace through the delicacy of its observation….[T]he poetic narration overlays the suffering with surprising beauty.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Girl from the Garden (9780062388384) by Parnaz Foroutan. $26.99 hardcover. 8/18/15 on sale.

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