The Stationery Shop

Written by Marjan Kamali
Review by Katie Stine

Set primarily in 1953 Tehran, The Stationery Shop is where two teenagers meet and fall in love. But this isn’t just love, it is the full-tilt, heady, whirlwind type of love, the kind that changes you forever. The narrator, Roya, is a bookish girl who nods along to her progressive father’s dream that she and her sister become lady scientists, just like Marie Curie and Helen Keller. But her perfect day is Tuesday, when she spends her afternoon looking at the translated novels under the kind guidance of the shop owner, Mr. Fakhri. Yet one day, she watches as a handsome young man comes to obtain political materials from the unassuming shopkeeper. Roya asks who he is, and Mr. Fakhri says that he is the boy who will change the world.

Nestled in the backdrop of the Iranian coup by foreign powers, this love story holds twists and turns. Here, the youth have hope, but they do not have innocence. Politics are shadowy, money is corrupt, democracy is a tenuous dream. The love between these two teenagers is the only thing that seems certain—until the boy’s mother intervenes. Her erratic, transgressive behavior is an embarrassment, but could she be as cruel as Roya supposes?

Part of the joy of this book is the journey, the discovery of the why when we already know the what. This is a beautiful book with drool-worthy descriptions of Persian food. As an American, I enjoyed reading the outsider perspective on our casual demeanor and “anything goes” social rules. While there are politics in this novel, it is not a political novel. This story is about the other side of love, which is grief, and the other side of grief, which is love.