In The Time of Our History by Susanne Pari is a heartfelt and alluring story of an Iranian-American family. Set in the late 1990s, the major events of the story occur in New Jersey and San Francisco. The story is inspired by the author’s personal experience and it makes the narration profound and touching.
Mitra and Anahita Jahani were born in America, while their parents moved to America after escaping the 1979 Iranian revolution. Anahita is the favourite daughter. She lives a life that is guided by their culture and traditions. Mitra, however, is a rebel who has embraced American values. Her rebellion leads to her being banished by her father.
Unfortunately, Anahita and her two children die in a tragic car accident. Anahita’s tragic demise breaks apart the Jahani family.
A year later, Mitra embarks on a much-dreaded trip. She is going back home to observe the traditional First death anniversary ceremonies. Mitra and her mother, Shireen, share a loving relationship, unlike the one she has with her father. Being back home, Mitra comes across a terrible secret about Anahita, her sweet sister. Shireen is torn between her loyalties toward her husband and her love for her only surviving daughter. Faced with unknown challenges, the mother and daughter rewrite their stories.
Pari’s descriptive writing brings the characters to life. The story is character driven. Mitra, Shireen, and Anahita–the three main characters are well-sketched.
Shireen is endearing and funny in her own unique way. Mitra’s feelings towards her sister are as real as they could be. There’s love, concern, anger, ego clashes, and even jealousy.
Among the secondary characters, I loved Olga, Vivian, and Nasim.
Mitra’s father is a well-sketched character too. He is a despicable person, and the writing creates the perfect image in the reader’s mind. Pari has depicted his patriarchal and rigid thoughts, domineering attitude, and hatred towards people of Indian and Asian origin honestly.
The narration is emotional, realistic, and even funny. The author has explored varied themes in this story. Family values, cultural ethos, life under the harsh Iranian regime, immigration, and assimilation, racism. She also addresses the rigid patriarchy, role morality patrol in Iran, and the severe punishments meted out to women for violating the dress code.
Apart from these broader themes, childhood trauma, molestation, infidelity, and domestic abuse are a few of the other important parts of the story.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Mozhan Marnò. Her narration is perfectly suited to the tone and setting of the story. Her voice modulation and accent are apt for the various characters. However, in certain places, she sounds a little distant and unaffected by emotions.
There’s a lot of back-and-forth in the narration. It left me confused and disoriented sometimes. Also, a new character is introduced almost at the end of the story. The story could have been shorter, crisper, and more focussed on the main characters if not for this addition.
In The Time of Our History is a well-written and immersive family saga that revolves around culture, immigration, family dynamics, and generational rift.
Wordsopedia Rating 4/5
|Title: In The Time of Our History
|Author: Susanne Pari
|Publisher: Kensington Books, HighBridge Audio
|Publication date: Jan 3, 2023
|No. of Hours: 11 hours 52 minutes
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About the author
Susanne Pari is a novelist, journalist, essayist, book reviewer, and author interviewer whose writing focuses on stories of displacement and belonging, of identity and assimilation, of trauma and resilience. Born in New Jersey to an Iranian father and an American mother, she grew up both in the United States and Iran until the 1979 Islamic Revolution forced her family into permanent exile. Her first novel, The Fortune Catcher, has been translated into six languages and her non-fiction writing has appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. She divides her time between Northern California and New York.
Get in touch with the author on her website.