My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji (his first book) is a fictitious account of Pasha Shahed, a 17-year-old boy spending his summer in Tehran, Iran with his best friends in 1973. The novel is loosely based on Seraji’s own time spent in Iran before he left at the age of 19, roughly the same age as Pasha who moves to America to attend university after faking his high school grades.
Actually, Seraji states in a conversation found at the back of the book that when he was writing the book the protagonist (or Pasha) had no name since he/Seraji thought in terms of himself as being the main character, and Pasha “would have been [Seraji’s] name if Mahbod wasn’t chosen, and Shahed is [Seraji’s] father’s pseudonym, and [Seraj’s] mother’s maiden name.”
The reader can rest assured that Seraji is not only writing from memory but also from the heart.
Rooftops of Tehran is basically a love story that goes horribly wrong. Pasha falls in love with a girl named Zari, who is slightly older and is engaged to marry Doctor, a 26-year-old university student who is also an activist against the Shah’s regime in 1973.
As for the story it is engaging and enchanting, and certainly recreates Tehran before the revolution, but also represents the SAVAK, the secret police, in a dark and fearful tale of men who are arrested and jailed with no explanation and the power the SAVAK have over the normal citizens. And then things go wrong for Pasha and his precious Zari.
As for the writing, one native in English can immediately tell that this book was written by someone with English as a second language. The sentences are short and choppy and often include cheesy cliches. In addition, the dialogue is often unreal in the negative sense and lacks in credibility. Here’s an example:
Pasha is speaking to Ahmed, his best friend: “I hate them. I hate them all. They killed Doctor. It wasn’t the SAVAK. It was this screwed-up system, this goddamn country and its fucking people who can’t get their act together to overthrow a tyrant [Here the writer is simply ranting on his own behalf]. We’re all a bunch of cowards or we would’ve rushed into the streets protesting his arrest the night I gave him away. Then maybe he’d still be alive” (p 193).
There are many, many more examples of how the dialogue rants or simply breaks the verisimilitude of storytelling, and is the sign of any novice writer. This reader wasn’t impressed with the writing.
The book, however, is worth reading to learn more about other cultures and for the love between Pasha and Zari, but do not expect to be overwhelmed with beautiful language–there simply is none. A recommend, but a weak one at best.
CG FEWSTON is an American novelist who is a member of AWP, a member of Americans for the Arts, and a professional member and advocate of the PEN American Center, advocating for the freedom of expression around the world.
CG FEWSTON has travelled across continents and visited such places as Mexico, the island of Guam, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Taipei and Beitou in Taiwan, Bali in Indonesia, and Guilin and Shenzhen and Beijing in China. He also enjoys studying and learning French, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
CG FEWSTON earned an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Administration (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors) from Stony Brook University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, where he had the chance to work with wonderful and talented novelists like Richard Adams Carey (author of In the Evil Day, October 2015; and, The Philosopher Fish, 2006) and Jessica Anthony (author of Chopsticks, 2012; and, The Convalescent, 2010) as well as New York Times Best-Selling novelists Matt Bondurant (author of The Night Swimmer, 2012; and, The Wettest County in the World, 2009, made famous in the movie Lawless, 2012) and Wiley Cash (author of A Land More Kind Than Home, 2013; and, This Dark Road to Mercy, 2014).
Among many others, CG FEWSTON’S stories, photographs and essays have appeared in Sediments Literary–Arts Journal, Bohemia, Ginosko Literary Journal, GNU Journal (“Hills Like Giant Elephants”), Tendril Literary Magazine, Prachya Review (“The One Who Had It All”), Driftwood Press, The Missing Slate Literary Magazine (“Darwin Mother”), Gravel Literary Journal, Foliate Oak Magazine, The Writer’s Drawer, Moonlit Road, Nature Writing, and Travelmag: The Independent Spirit; and for several years he was a contributor to Vietnam’s national premier English newspaper, Tuoi Tre, “The Youth Newspaper.”
You can read more about CG FEWSTON and his writing at
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN won GOLD for Literary Classics’ 2015 best book in the category under ”Special Interest” for “Gender Specific – Female Audience”…
Finalist in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Romantic Fiction…
Finalist in the 2015 Mystery & Mayhem Novel Writing Contest…
Praise for A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN:
“Fewston delivers an atmospheric and evocative thriller in which an American government secret agent must navigate fluid allegiances and murky principles in 1970s Tehran… A cerebral, fast-paced thriller.”
“A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a thrilling adventure which takes place in pre-revolutionary Tehran. Author CG FEWSTON provides a unique glimpse into this important historical city and its rich culture during a pivotal time in its storied past. This book is so much more than a love story. Skillfully paired with a suspenseful tale of espionage, A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a riveting study of humanity. Replete with turns & twists and a powerful finish, FEWSTON has intimately woven a tale which creates vivid pictures of the people and places in this extraordinary novel.”
CG FEWSTON‘s new novel,
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN, was published on April 2, 2015 —
10 years to the day of the publication
of his first novella, A FATHER’S SON (April 2, 2005)
“Thus one skilled at giving rise to the extraordinary
is as boundless as Heaven and Earth,
as inexhaustible as the Yellow River and the ocean.
Ending and beginning again,
like the sun and moon. Dying and then being born,
like the four seasons.”
found in Sources of Chinese Tradition, p 5