A breathtaking first novel set in Iran during the mid-20th century. A Kurdish boy is conscripted into the shah's army and trained to deny his origins. Khadivi's poetic writing is a marvel of historical fiction and introspection, showing how fear, ambition and brutality destroy the soul.— Louise Jones
Told with an evocative richness of language that recalls Michael Ondaatje or Anita Desai, the story of Reza Khourdi is that of the 20th century everyman, cast out from the clan in the name of nation, progress and modernity who cannot help but leave behind a shadow that yearns for the impossible dreams of love, land and home.
Before following his father into battle, he had been like any other Kurdish boy: in love with his Maman, fascinated by birds and the rugged Zagros mountains, dutiful to his stern and powerful Baba. But after he becomes orphaned in a massacre by the armies of Iran's new Shah, Reza Pahlavi I.; he is taken in by the very army that has killed his parents, re-named Reza Khourdi, and indoctrinated into the modern, seductive ways of the newly minted nation, careful to hide his Kurdish origins with every step.
"The Age of Orphans" follows Reza on his meteoric rise in ranks, his marriage to a proud Tehrani woman and his eventual deployment, as Capitan, back to the Zagros Mountains and the ever-defiant Kurds. Here Reza is responsible for policing, and sometimes killing, his own people, and it is here that his carefully crafted persona begins to fissure and crack.
“This is a stunning debut . . . unflinching, gorgeously poetic, intimate yet with a wondrous sweep of history. To read the tale of Reza Khourdi is to take a journey deep inside the darkest cavity of the heart.”—Cristina Garcia, author of National Book Award finalist Dreaming in Cuban
“The Age of Orphans is an arresting, powerful, transformative, unflinching, epic and deeply affecting novel. I cannot recommend it enough. A major voice to watch.”—Chris Abani, author of Graceland and The Virgin of Flames
“Laleh Khadivi is genuinely gifted and ruthless with that gift. We are all so fortunate that she is, for it takes both talent and ruthlessness to delve this deeply into an epic life.” — Dorothy Allison, author of National Book Award finalist Bastard Out of Carolina
“Unflinchingly, Khadivi limns the emotional and physical brutality of the tribal-suppression campaign and Reza’s splintering psyche in language both fierce and poetic.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution