Neda, Omid, and Sheida are the Children of the Jacaranda Tree. Iran's Evin Prison is where Neda spends her first few months of life with her mother and other women who share in the caring of her before she is whisked away to who knows where. Two parents are taken from their home, leaving their six year old child Omid behind, alone amidst the chaos and disorder that is left behind after their home is searched. Family secrets and tragedies are often left unmentioned due to the devastation a death can bring and especially when the deceased was murdered.
Set in post-revolutionary Iran, Children of the Jacaranda Tree paints a devastating, heartbreaking, yet hopeful picture of how three generations - beginning with the generation above - can overcome their tragic pasts, and try to heal.
This novel is a breathtaking debut that is based on the experiences of the author Sahar Delijani and her family. I have a fondness for books that are based upon real-life events but I was already in love with the story, having read it completely before learning that fact. The author is already one of my favourites.
I loved that the book grabbed me from the very first page, and held my attention throughout the experience. I couldn't put this book down and while I did get this as an ARC (Advance Reader's Copy) I'll be getting a finished copy as I know this title is one I will reread many times. For me a huge part of the appeal is that the author paints a picture of these events that is candid and uncensored. It was difficult to read at times as the characters had gained a place in my heart within just a few pages and I couldn't help but empathize.
If I had to pinpoint one thing I loved the most about this book, it would be that I have nothing but admiration for the people who have experienced (and who still do in many cases) such a turbulent and devastating period in history and yet take the time to also help others. Those types of characters are what made this a wonderfully inspirational novel that, in spite of the terrible acts committed by some, still manages to restore a reader's faith in humanity.
It also gave me an urge to learn more about the Middle East. It's certainly one of my favourite reads of 2013 and I dearly hope that Sahar Delijani writes more. She captures the unexpected beauty in such a dark time with absolute perfection.
Author's website: http://www.sahardelijani.com/en/
Reading it as a book club choice? Check out this great reading group guide.