Click here to read reviewer Nancy Fontaine's review of Caspian Rain.
Set in pre-revolutionary Iran, this ultimately tragic tale speaks to the painful world of a child born into an unhappy marriage, her mother profoundly disappointed that she has not given birth to a son. Her father, emotionally unavailable, commits only to the idea of his marriage, his heart elsewhere.
In the rigidly class-conscious Tehran, Jews are segregated by finance and social status, Bahar’s parents, though devout, from a poor part of the city, her husband-to-be, Omid’s family wealthier, welcome in Muslim circles. Although they will always be treated as interlopers, the wealthy Jews consider acceptance in Muslim society a sign of status.
Son of a distant mother and a controlling father, Omid has learned to separate himself from his emotions; he chooses Bahar as his wife, not for her exuberance and hope for the future, but because she seems malleable, a significant mistake on his part. Not only is Bahar never accepted by Omid’s family, but she seems unwilling to acquiesce to her new station, doggedly pursuing her dreams though her husband has forbidden it.
Denied continued education and career, Bahar, resists sinking into despair: “She can’t believe this is going to be her fate.” Unable to bow to her husband’s expectations, she is “caught between the pride of battle and the shame of defeat.” Realizing that Omid has transferred his affections to another woman, Bahar puts aside her plans and faces the necessity of giving Omid a son to carry on his name and bind him to her.
Unfortunately, Bahar delivers a red-haired daughter, Yaas, replicating her own sad life, disappointed mother shamed by a worthless daughter: “What if you bet your whole life on a single wish and lost?” In spite of her mother’s unremitting criticism, Yaas hovers near the unhappy Bahar, hoping for a shred of affection or a kind word.
As the years pass, the parents’ rancor increases, Yaas the intermediary between the couple, unable to broker a reconciliation, craving her father’s attention and Bahar’s acceptance - an impossible burden for a child to bear. Aware of Bahar’s dashed hopes and the sadness of her daily existence, Yaas wishes happiness for her mother, but is unable to provide it.
Meanwhile the child is distracted in her misery by the eccentricities of her neighbors: the Tango Dancer, the rebellious maid who, although married, sneaks off to meet her lover in the afternoon; the Pigeon Sister; and the enigmatic Ghost Brother. Invisible at home, Yaas is at least real to others, haunted by the family history and an affliction that drives her mother deeper into despair.
Building to a dramatic conflagration, Yaas’ failure to make her parents happy weighs on every moment of her existence, the author tapping into the universality of human suffering, dashed expectations and loneliness, set against a loveless landscape. In the end, the terrible symmetry of this tale is undeniable.