Monday, July 1, 2024

Book Review: The Lion Women of Tehran

By Allyson Bales

In 1950s Tehran, seven-year-old Ellie lives in grand comfort until the untimely death of her father, forcing Ellie and her mother to move to a tiny home downtown. Lonely and bearing the brunt of her mother’s endless grievances, Ellie dreams of a friend to alleviate her isolation.

Luckily, on the first day of school, she meets Homa, a kind, passionate girl with a brave and irrepressible spirit. Together, the two girls play games, learn to cook in the stone kitchen of Homa’s warm home, wander through the colorful stalls of the Grand Bazaar, and share their ambitions for becoming “lion women.”

But their happiness is disrupted when Ellie and her mother are afforded the opportunity to return to their previous bourgeois life. Now a popular student at the best girls’ high school in Iran, Ellie’s memories of Homa begin to fade. Years later, however, her sudden reappearance in Ellie’s privileged world alters the course of both of their lives.

Together, the two young women come of age and pursue their own goals for meaningful futures. But as the political turmoil in Iran builds to a breaking point, one earth-shattering betrayal will have enormous consequences. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“Freedom has no musts.”

This story was deeply moving. 

I teared up reading about the lives and friendship of Ellie and Homa, about the turmoil in Tehran, and about women’s rights. 

This novel is about the bravery, resiliency, courage, and deep love of women and I will think about the story for some time to come. 

Here I am again thinking that I don’t want to give away too much to you, dear reader. I often think about what I would want to know prior to reading a book, and there is so much that I could potentially ruin and take from your experience if I share too much. I really don’t love knowing too much going into a story because I love the entire experience of a favorite read. I love meeting the characters, learning about them and feeling what they are feeling, and just getting to read a beautiful and impactful story and remembering where I was and what I felt when that happens. This story was that for me and I think it will be for you too, so these few things I will share: 

Know that this book made me think of my childhood friends and what would have happened if one choice or situation were different? Would we be different people leading different lives? Would we still be in touch? I am so thankful for my friendships, especially the women that have taught me things about myself, have been a mirror to my light and darkness, and have picked me up. Women are fierce and I could not stop thinking about so many of the most meaningful women in my life including my mom, my wife, and my best friends. 

Also, this story made me realize I kind of stick my head in the sand when it comes to political upheaval and struggles in other countries. I turn on the news and lately it always seems so sad and defeating and it makes me want to immediately turn away. What this story exposed me to made me want to learn more about the women of Iran, about women and their struggles and their courage everywhere.  It made me want to be more educated and aware and more present in what is going on in the world and to be a part of doing something, of being a part of the solution. 

Lastly, this story made me proud to be a woman. To be amongst the brave, the courageous, the vulnerable, the intelligent, the lions. 

This book will move you, inspire you, educate you, and is one I highly, highly recommend.  It will definitely be a favorite of the year. 

Thanks to Gallery for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase The Lion Women of Tehran here.

Also by Marjan Kamali:
The Stationery Shop
Together Tea

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