The Book of Fate

Written by Parinoush Sanice
Review by Tess Heckel

In Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, curious teenage girls like Massoumeh enjoyed school even though older brothers like Ahmad thought education was wasted on a mere girl. Massoumeh’s father was proud of his scholarly daughter, having moved the family from Kum to Tehran for a better education. Ahmad, violently jealous of his sister, forced their younger brother, Ali, to spy on Massoumeh and her flashy friend, Parvaneh, whose unbecoming behavior might be a bad influence on his sister.

Using his position in the family to dole out punishment to the younger sisters, he accused Massoumeh of dishonor over an innocent encounter with a handsome pharmacist’s assistant, Saiid, when she sprained her ankle. Claiming she was flirting with Saiid, Ahmad beat her in front of the family and demanded she be “married off” after Ali found innocent poems Saiid had written to Massoumeh, effectively lying to their father until he no longer believed in her. Determined never to marry, Massoumeh saw suicide as the only way out. Fortunately, a caring neighbor, Mrs. Parvin, found a suitor for Massoumeh, telling her to accept the “destiny of women.” Massoumeh, to avoid Hell, married Hamid Soltani in the fog of a hurried ceremony. This husband turned out to be unusually liberal and would play a very different role in his wife’s life, their family, and in the political upheaval to follow.

In a novel of 464 pages, this engrossing story is difficult to put down at any juncture. Covering the pre-revolution times up to the present day, Massoumeh’s story is vividly and passionately narrated and will open readers’ eyes to a society that hid the bravery and strength of daily humanity, filling decades of Iranian life and political changes now revealed by the story of one very courageous woman and her family.