The Stationery Shop

Roya is a dreamy, idealistic teenager living in 1953 Tehran who, amidst the political upheaval of the time, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood book and stationery shop. She always feels safe in his dusty store, overflowing with fountain pens, shiny ink bottles, and thick pads of soft writing paper.

When Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry—she loses her heart at once. And, as their romance blossoms, the modest little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.

A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square, but suddenly, violence erupts—a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she resigns herself to never seeing him again.

Until, more than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did he leave? Where did he go? How was he able to forget her?

Dear Stationery Shop,

Enchanting. You are absolutely enchanting. Hidden away in a Stationery Shop you exemplified unconditional love and the power of time. Every character was beautifully written and had so much depth, I wish I could have met them in person. You are a standard for a well-written story to transport readers. Thank you for sharing.

With Love,

What an enchanting book. I was attracted to the breathtaking cover, allured by the beauty, I read the book for the description. True there is heart break longing, and turmoil. Yet, there is undying hope, familial devotion, and unconditional love. The main story line is anchored in a beautiful and trying setting of 1950s Tehran, Iran.

There are so many ways I could go with this review, because there are so many elements to the story. First, I want to encourage any reader to look at a brief timeline of Tehran to get a feel for what it was like in the 1950s. I pictured more of what is going on today in the story-line, and found I had to remind myself of what the country looked like then. and Here is an article which unpacks the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh in 1953 and the United States involvement (which was unknown history to me).

In addition to the setting’s history, the actual settings in the story are magical. The iconic Stationery Shop being important to the primary and secondary story. I was captured by this shop and it’s owner, Mr. Fahkri. His history is briefly explored and is so fun to go deeper with the purpose and heart behind the Stationery Shop.

I absolutely loved the vivid detail! The food, the smells, the color. Every detail served a purpose and many times evoked memories later on in the book for different characters. The concept of non-linear time is explored in a coherent way and shown in the events and repetition of history. I was never confused when the setting shifted. I typically struggle when authors jump in time, but Marjan Kamali did it wonderfully.

One of my favorite writing techniques of Kamali was her use of language. Since the characters are in Tehran, they are speaking Farsi. There is so much which could have been missed in translation, and she expertly works around it. At the same time, she honors the cultural boundaries. The intensity of moments were emphasized by simple sentences such as, “he spoke using the informal you”. If left solely to an English translation we could miss the special parts of certain moments.

There are so many things to say about this book, so many layers I want to touch on. Yet, isn’t this the delight of reading a good book – the opportunity to delve in layer by layer? Stationery Shop has it all. If you love history, you get to see the political activism of Bahman. If you want to love story, look at Roya or even Mr. Fahkri. If you want heart warming familial interaction, look at the Kayhani family as the navigate everyday life. Mental health? Immigration? All here.

I look forward to my next encounter with this book and seeing Roya and the cast once again. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is feeling a little stir crazy, to the people who want to be immersed in another culture, or those who desire an uplifting book.

GoodReads | Bookpage


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