Children of the Jacaranda Tree-Sahar Deljani
Neda is born in Tehran’s Evin Prison, where her mother is allowed to nurse her for a few months before the arms of a guard appear at the cell door one day and, simply, take her away. In another part of the city, three-year-old Omid witnesses the arrests of his political activist parents from his perch at their kitchen table, yogurt dripping from his fingertips. More than twenty years after the violent, bloody purge that took place inside Tehran’s prisons, Sheida learns that her father was one of those executed, that the silent void firmly planted between her and her mother all these years was not just the sad loss that comes with death, but the anguish and the horror of murder.
A bittersweet history of Iran written in a poetic style. Ranging from the 1980s with the prison stories that would become the secrets of the 2000s, it explores how various situations in past would arise and impact the future, our present. Constantly asking the question: Can there a future with such a past? Going from character to character in a varied range of situations and life circumstances, this book feels like a microcosm of society evoking emotions ranging from despair and death to hope and renewal. It is an excellent exploration of the scars of history.
However, it is a debut novel that suffered a bit from seeing the forest without the trees. The characters are a bit two dimensional at times, they are not fully realized which makes discerning relationships between all the people a bit of a head scratcher at times which is further exacerbated by an extremely jumpy organization of flashbacks and different points in the present. In a way, this is more of a collection of vignettes rather than a novel proper but Deljani's lovely prose kept me going. I look forward to more from her.