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Houri

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  36 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Three years after the Revolution, Tehran looks like a boneyard. Shahed has returned from California to his homeland to face the ghost of his father, to find out who betrayed him as a child, to recover something that might make him feel alive. Witnessing the brutalities of militant fundamentalists, he wishes his exuberant hustler of a father were alive again to kick the mul ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Permanent Press (NY)
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(showing 1-29 of 52)
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Renee
An autobiographical first novel (that has gotten the author banned from Iran) that looks at changes in Iran between the late 1960s and the early 1980s through the eyes of twelve year old Shahed, and as a man fourteen years later. The author contrasts his native country before and after the Islamic revolution. This wrenching coming of age story is filled with rich detail and well written.
My favorite line of the book is thought by Shahed toward his father (as he was searching his pants pockets fo
...more
Wisteria Leigh
Houri[return]by Mehrdad Balali[return]The Permanent Press[return]December 2009[return]303 pp.[return]ISBN-10: 1579621775[return]ISBN-13: 978-1579621773[return][return][return]When you begin to read Houri, you are descending into Iranian airspace through the voice of Shahed, a man returning to his homeland on the third anniversary of his fathers death. His name means � witness� and through his eyes, Mehrdad Balali allows you to see his country juxtaposed in a time warp of culture. Shahed left Ira ...more
Rita
We lived in Iran for a couple of years in the 70's so I looked forward to hearing what Mr. Balali's impressions were upon his return. I was familiar with some of the terms, parts of town, food items, and customs that were mentioned in the book.

The book brought back some memories but sometimes I was confused because of the leaping about among the time frames he employed. It took a few lines of reading, sometimes, to figure out whether he was in the his childhood past, his recent past in the US, o
...more
Jennie
So, for me there are really two aspects of this book worthy of rating. The first is setting. I found the author to be very good at describing his settings in an evocative manner that effectively created a variety of moods and tones. I'd give him five stars in this department. I can't speak to the accuracy of his descriptions of Iran, but he's very good at making you feel what (I think) he wants you to feel when he's describing his various scenes. His depictions of America ring true to me, althou ...more
Marissa
I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Mehrdad Balali, and do an interview with him. Here's a snippet about his first book, Houri, from my introduction: "In Houri, Balali relays a coming of age story about Shahed, an Iranian boy raised in poverty, who finds himself constantly torn between his devoted mother and his larger-than-life, exciting, but often thoughtless, father. Despite all odds, Shahed is able to move to the US for college, where he struggles to make his way as a young man. When Sha ...more
Shana
I’m not sure that I liked this book. It was painful to read at times because of the main character’s weakness and the hideous ways in which his father treated the family. The novel begins with the main character, Shahed, in his twenties and living in California. He works in a gas station and doesn’t have much direction, and decides to return to Iran several years after his father’s death.

Throughout the book, scenes from Shahed’s visit are interspersed with longer chapters of his memories growing
...more
Dogg
I read this book during the Christmas season. Reading this book during this period of time at first seemed inappropriate. However, the context of the story is so wearing and dreary it was probably a good thing that I read it when I did so that I ended up in a middle ground.

I really appreciated the cultural revelations that Balali made in the telling of story. This and the endless manner in which family, friends, and enemies attempted to belittle each other in this story are the only things that
...more
Claudia
I received this book as an advance copy from Goodreads and I must say, the book was a delight to read.
The story is gripping, bearing some resemblance to "The Kite Runner": fundamentalism forces a boy to leave his country in the hopes of finding a better life in America. Fourteen years later, this expat returns to a devastated nation to pay his final tribute to his father.The resemblance stops there. The book, loosely based on its author's experiences, concentrates on the relationship father-son
...more
Becky
YAY! A Goodreads giveaway win!

A fascinating look into Iran before and after the Cultural Revolution. I love any book that provides a glimpse at any foreign culture, and this book in particular I was very excited to read for I feel unfamiliar with Middle Eastern cultures as a whole. I appreciated the contrast of Shahed's coming-of-age in pre-Revolution Iran, complete with a difficult family, to his return as an adult from time in America.

The book was well written and entertaining. The cultural c
...more
Catherine Siemann
The back cover says this novel is about "the repressions of the Shah [and:] the brutality of the Islamic fundamentalist government", but it's mostly about the narrator's tragic childhood with a thoughtless playboy wastrel of a father (possibly standing in metaphorically for the Shah?), with glimpses into his aimless life in America and his post-Revolution return. Women are all victims or temptresses; personal dysfunction seems to be more the order of the day than politics. Certainly there are el ...more
Ruth
Nov 07, 2009 Ruth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in Middle Eastern color, lifestyles and "growing up" themes
Houri ("a beautiful mymph of the Moslem Paradise"- Webster New World Dictionary) is a novel that I found reads like it is an autobiography. Mehrdad Balali incorporates memories of his youth in Tehran, Iran with his twenty-somethings as an immigrant in Monrovia, Southern California. The sight, sounds and smells of both CA and Iran are vivid. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and appreciate the opportunity to get the 'feel' of being in Iran after the fall of the Shah. I hope it presages many more nov ...more
L (Sniffly Kitty)
While the story is somewhat interesting, I find myself unable to finish the book. I may at some point go through the rest of it, but so far, the defeatism/pessimism of the main character is a turnoff. The political commentary (or at least I think the author means to make a statement about the current situation in Iran) I'm sure is meant to be quite moving, but I can't seem to get behind the main character and root for him.

Disclaimer: I won this for free from First Reads.
Robert
A solid and compelling read which has a sweeping breadth and touching plot. While the prose could be a bit more eloquent and hardly reaches the heights of high literature it is more then accurate to keep the book interesting and readable. This book provides good insight into both revolutionary Iran and Iranian-American life. In short worth the read but unless you have an existing interest in Iran or the Middle East its probably not worth going out of your way for..
Melissa
Won on first reads. As the world lost a great lady when my wonderful friend, Ramona, just passed away, this review will serve for her. She will be dearly missed and cancer will be cursed for taking her from us so young.


Good book at describing what the iranian condition is. For anyone wanting to know what the life is like there or what an American journalist's journey over there is like, this is a definate read.
Marc
Houri is a wonderful novel. Even as it provides valuable and much needed information to Western readers about a world that is, ironically, so present in the headlines and absent in any meaningful way from our collective understanding, it reminds us that humans everywhere have so much in common: greed, lust, yearning, heartache, joy, generosity, and love. And, perhaps most of all, the capacity to forgive.
Jen Smith
This was a harsh book about a boy growing up in Iran. I really disliked Shahed's father throughout this book. Shahed comes to terms with his father after his father dies, but I would be very slow in forgiving the man. The book gave me some insight into life in Iran before and after the hostages were taken at the American Embassy. I found the book very interesting and enjoyed reading it.
Charlaralotte
Well-drawn account of childhood in Iran under the Shah. Great descriptions of impoverished home life and shoestring existence. Excellent portrayal of complicated relationship between long-suffering mother and lousy, yet charismatic, father.

The storyline relating to the title is rather secondary to the descriptions of the boy's life navigating his world.
Susan
May 26, 2010 Susan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: iran
I have mixed feelings about this one. It's an interesting story and could have been a 4 star, but I just didn't like the author's negative attitude. Yes, he was writing about a dysfunctional father-son relationship, and the father in the book was truly awful. But the unrelenting negative remarks just got too much. But still interesting, and I read it quickly.
Carla
Overall, this was an okay book. The plot kept me interested. The one thing I didn't like about it though was how it kept jumping back and forth from the past to the present.
Ramona
Dec 11, 2009 Ramona marked it as to-read
Shelves: first-reads
won this on first reads. Please check my friend Melissa Murphy's review for this book.
Ann
Watch for my review at Internet Review of Books.
Azzageddi
Azzageddi marked it as to-read
Sep 21, 2013
Sarah
Sarah added it
Aug 11, 2013
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