The Lion Women of Tehran

Marjan Kamali's gorgeous, gripping third novel, The Lion Women of Tehran, paints a layered portrait of female friendship, unexpected cultural shifts, and second chances. In 1950s Tehran, seven-year-old Ellie is devastated and blindsided by her father's death, which forces Ellie and her mother to move to a smaller house across town. On the first day at her new school, Ellie meets Homa, a confident, bubbly local girl, and they become fast friends, spending hours together and dreaming of their futures, when they will become "lion women": bold, courageous, and successful.

Kamali (The Stationery ShopTogether Tea) sensitively portrays the complex bond between Ellie and Homa as they grow into young adults, two young women of differing social classes, temperaments, and ambitions. Kamali provides a nuanced look at the experiences of young women under the Shah's regime through their social circle. As the political landscape in Iran shifts rapidly, Ellie worries for Homa and her radical ideas, but neither of them can imagine how the country's political climate will shape the rest of their lives.

Narrated mostly by Ellie, The Lion Women of Tehran takes readers from the streets of Tehran to 1970s Manhattan, where Ellie and her husband eventually make their home. Homa narrates several brief sections where what's left unsaid is as powerful as what's spelled out. Kamali is unwilling to give her characters the easy way out, but their stories, despite the pain, always bend toward hope.

Insightful, compassionate, and grounded in historical detail, The Lion Women of Tehran is an evocation of a country upended and a tribute to the ways deep friendships shape our lives. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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