From Publishers Weekly
Iranian-born Moshiri's poignant, semiautobiographical third novel (after 2003's The Bathhouse) carefully observes the effects of loss on three people in 1980s Houston. Ric Cardinal is a devoted social worker; his former client, Madison Kirby, is a bitter former philosophy professor stricken by AIDS; Madison's neighbor, Roya, is an Iranian political refugee with a young daughter. Each protagonist narrates a story, and it is Roya's tale, which bears some resemblance to Moshiri's own, that most compels. While the other two fall prey to such utterances as Madison's upon meeting Roya for the first time ("Something stirred in my guts again and I wanted her the way I'd never wanted a female in my life") and are either sinner (Madison) or saint (Ric), Roya simmers with complexity and nuance. As Ric tries to counsel the increasingly difficult Madison and contend with his own schizophrenic teenage son, Roya recounts her days of wandering through the Middle East ("I didn't mention my dark thoughts—despair, dread of the unknown future, and the constant presence of death, real or imagined, in my dreams and wakefulness. Madness at times''). Her unlikely journey to Houston proves just as alienating, and Moshiri deftly conveys Roya's plight—and ultimately her courage—which are the novel's greatest strengths. (Jan.)
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The setting for the three overlapping monologues constituting Moshiri's impressive third novel is May to December, early 1990s, in Houston. Each speaker fills in his or her backstory lavishly, and a mournful little third-person epilogue peeks into the future. First up: Madison, about 40, who traded doctoral studies for drug-addicted wandering and now has AIDS. He has fixated on his new neighbor, young Iranian refugee Roya (the second monologist), believing that she must be with him as he dies. She, however, has fallen for social worker Ric (the third speaker), to whom Madison, a former client, referred her for help with her 12-year-old daughter. Ric is reciprocally smitten, and Madison becomes furious enough to kill. This may seem mere melodrama, but the principals are so fully and credibly realized that even repulsive, crazed Madison, who seems much more responsible for his tribulations than Roya and Ric do for theirs, earns grudging sympathy. Life has been cruel to all three, but it crushes only one, not, unfortunately, without damaging others. Ray Olson
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