Virginia's Reviews > The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life

The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik
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Apr 24, 11

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bookshelves: first-reads, 2011books, nonfiction
Read from April 16 to 24, 2011 — I own a copy

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via the Goodreads First Reads program. (Awesome!)

I did not know a lot about the recent history of Iran prior to reading this book, aside from having watched the movie Persepolis. It was a little hard to wrap my mind around all of the things that happen to the author's mother, which seem so medieval - these were recent events, relatively speaking. The author's mother is the same age as my mother. (Who had a very different life.)
The writing is a little simplistic - it's an easy read in that sense. But the story is very powerful, and carries the writing. The author's mother, Lili, had a fascinating life - she accomplished so much, with the odds stacked against her. (child bride, continued her education in spite of family & social pressure to stop, divorced, moved to another country without knowing the language, got a medical degree, remarried, practiced as an OB & neonatologist, opened a clinic for poor women, supported her extended family, moved to yet another country, owned her own small business, etc) Very inspiring stuff.

HOWEVER.

I was buzzing along, reading this, with a 4 star review in mind - okay writing, great story. Not the best book I've read this year, but nothing really wrong with it, either. And then I got to the end. The first 90% of the book takes place based on recollections that the author's mother recorded onto cassette tapes and mailed to her. (We conjecture - it is not specified whether or not the author conducted interviews with other family members or acquaintances.) The last 10% or so is based on the author's own recollections of her childhood and her young adult life. The big hook, for this story, which is given away in the title and the inside flap, is that the American author has a sister living in Iran that she never knew about until her mother divulged her first marriage & child late in life. Through the whole book, the reader is waiting for this revelation to occur in real-time - the story starts out in the recent past, with the author receiving the tapes, and then covers the family history from the author's grandmother until present day. When we reach the point at which the author now knows she has a sister, what does she do? Does she get on a plane and meet her sister in person, along with the nieces & nephews she now knows about? Does she bring her mother to Iran with her for a family reunion? Does she have her sister come to the USA to meet her? Is the author so fascinated by her mother's story, that she now needs to go to Iran and see for herself the places and people that were revealed to her in the cassette tapes?

NO.

The author never met her sister in person, because traveling to Iran to do so would "only be intruding on the life she had made for herself." IT WAS LESS INTRUSIVE TO WRITE AN ENTIRE BOOK ABOUT THIS INSTEAD?????????

Alright, putting that aside, what does the author's mother think of the book that her daughter is writing? She kept her secret so well hidden for so many years, what are her thoughts about her daughter publishing this memoir and revealing all this to the world? Does she agree with this, or disagree, were the cassette tapes meant to be private? What happens after the author finishes listening to the tapes? Do mother & daughter become closer as a result? Clearly, the author now has a deeper understanding of her mother and her life, how does this change their relationship? What is her mother's life like now?

We will never know, because the author NEVER TALKS TO HER MOTHER ABOUT IT. Or at least, not that she reveals in this memoir.

I wish this author's editor at Hatchette had read a draft of this, and said, "Great story! Here are some plane tickets to Iran, go meet your sister and make this book several chapters longer! And talk to your mom! If you decide not to do these things, you have to give a valid reason why, other than I DIDN'T FEEL LIKE IT."

And that's why this only has 3 stars from me.
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Karen Murphy I agree. I found the story interesting (although I found some of the Iranian attitudes towards women incongruous and confusing) but the ending was such a let down. Nothing was concluded! Her relationship with her mother was never explored after the revelation of her life in Iran. It definitely felt unfinished.
I also found parts of it unbelievable. They were so poor that the mother was the maid at the cheap motel but they were entertaining 30- 100 friends with lavish food in a house full of antiques and fine carpets. Huh?
I stretched to give it 3 stars.


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