Rachael's Reviews > Not Without My Daughter

Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody
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's review
Oct 09, 2009

it was ok
Recommended to Rachael by: Book Group
Read in October, 2009

The explicit message of Mahmoody's book is a warning to families who intermarry with Middle Eastern cultures, that their stability and happiness isn't secure. The pull of their political and cultural heritage is too great to be ignored entirely. It's a pretty alarming story, terrifying and gripping at the same time. My reaction was one of "look, don't look" at the horrors of her domestic imprisonment.

The implicit messages were the most troubling to me - that people like Moody can't change, that foreign visitors in the Middle East aren't treated well, that we should be wary of foreigners in our own land, that despite their appearance of Americanization they are potentially dangerous to those they love the most and maybe the rest of us. I didn't like that the book increased and promoted prejudice.

It's well written, especially the technique of periodic flashbacks that build a solid foundation and context for her current situation. It definitely pulled me in, despite the generally yucky feeling I had periodically as I read. I don't know how she could remember so many details of her year in Iran after the fact, but it doesn't really bother me if some of the glue that holds the story together is her best guess. What else are you going to do?

I didn't love Betty; she's not a heroine to me. I empathized with her motherly instincts and how very trapped she must have felt. I think she tried to be honest and succeeded in being "real" in a lot of senses, but it's also a very one sided story of victimization and that turns me off. Don't think that I fault her for blaming Moody. Everything he did was very wrong. I didn't want her to stay, I was dying to know how she'd manage to escape. At the same time, the heart of the story is a failure of a family, the tale of childhood trauma. It was hard for me to feel a sense of happiness at the end of the story because the scars of that year will last their whole lives.
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