We've all read book after book about Iran, like hungry wolves in a dark forest, eagerly snapping at anything that looks remotely like flesh. I have to say this about Terence Ward's "Searching for Hassan",
Let me warn each and everyone of you in advance of this; If you grew up during the late 60's and early seventies in Iran, you're going to have severe pangs of nostalgia If you were older and actually witnessed the period as adults, you will smile fondly. And if you are too young for any of this "foolishness", you will understand what it was like, and get it once and for all, downloaded into your heads.
I sat one morning, and after a quick coffee in my favorite Iran '98 World Cup Soccer cup, decided to open up the book I had been sent by the publisher (the mighty Houghton Mifflin Company no less!) I thought to myself "Yeah right! Another American feeble attempt, Humph! They never get it."
8 hours later, I put the book down, spent, exhausted, exhilarated, and resolved. I think I was panting too.
Terence Ward has gotten it down "pat", as they say. He has understood every nuance of our mighty culture, every sliver, every detail. I must say it is scary. Not that he has an obvious love for our country and it's culture, but more because in some ways he and his family have grasped it only too well. I mean, why in the world would the Ward clan (they are Irish-Americans, which explains some of it!) fall so madly in love with us? What disease have they been infected with, that normal Americans would become so enamored and infatuated with us? That they would risk everything and, as a family mind you, return to Iran in search of a family they met and grew to love during their very brief stay in Iran.
I don't get it and while I am confused at this, I found myself turning page after page after page.
Terence has our pulse. From the understanding of what it is like to live outside of Iran after the revolution and the torment and tribulation of the good life here, versus the yearning for home, to modern day Iranians in Iran and the daily grind of hopes raised and hopes dashed for a return to normalcy.
And I'm not talking about politics, he actually knows the value of "Chaghaleh-Badoom", he has tasted "Gojeh-Sabz" and a good "Lavashak" does not go unnoticed. He has tasted the aroma of freshly baked "Sangak" and the intoxication of Kabab smoke in Darband.
Terence Ward took me on a journey to a place I thought too nostalgic and dangerous to visit; The Past.
I learned from reading "Searching for Hassan" that like his family, you too can take this trip, and there's nothing embarrassing or scary about it. That you can emerge on the other side, and see through it all. You can see yourself reflected, like a dusty mirror, now wiped clean.
I especially enjoyed the writing style. It does tend to jump around from place and time, to place and time, but I found myself easily keeping up. I think the story has to be told this way since there is so much context one needs to have in order to understand everything. It's an unusually easy read. The frequent use of Farsi words was an especially nice touch and endeared me to the stories even more. The words are not hurried or too complex, simple words, simple phrasing, but with forethought and purpose. Nice.
If you wanted a book to hand to someone, say an American friend, or someone who knowing you, hasn't understood your angst, then you should buy them this book. This book will do it.
If you need a book to remember all the details you may have forgotten, either on purpose or through time, This book will do it.
All I can say to Terence, is this; "Bari-kalla! Pesareh Khoob!"