4 out of 4 stars
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In the late summer and early fall of 1988, over 4,500 Iranian political prisoners were massacred by the government of Iran. For not supporting the new regime of 1979, opponents of the new theocratic government were imprisoned, questioned, tortured and in 1988-murdered. To put this in perspective, one might compare this to the current American presidency executing voters who still supported the losing candidate. It is easily understood why this event would have caused uproar well into the 1990’s. What is difficult to understand, however, is why this butchery has never been acknowledged by the Iranian government or its supreme leader. It is guessed that because of the massive cover-up orchestrated by the supreme leader and his regime, the number of murdered citizens is closer to 30,000.
Approaching the 30th anniversary of this monstrosity, The Buried Secrets of Peonies by Mernegar Dorgoly sheds light on the emotional turmoil planted that summer in 1988 Iran and still festering in the hearts of its people today. The author reminisces about childhood when her mother would tell fantastic stories to keep her from recognizing the dark reality of their lives. Now an adult who has emigrated out of Iran, she translates for us a sampling of story-like letters she wrote for her parents to put words to the unspoken anguish.
The eight short stories found in the book offer glimpses into the lives of those affected by the massacre. Each is a breathtaking foray into the depths of the human heart. Each is shockingly gut-wrenching. Her stories follow prisoners waiting with hope for a release that will never come, a wife’s agonizing realization that her husband has been abducted, a daughter recognizing the awful truth of her parent’s deaths many years later, and excruciatingly-five more.
What is commendable about Dorgoly’s work is that all sides of the tragedy are captured, even that of the executioner. All faces of pain are laid bare in this book. The stunningly demonstrative use of metaphor leaves readers in bewildered silence as they experience the griefs of this tragedy. My favorite part about this book was the writing itself. It isn’t often that I am surprised by an author, and I can honestly say the strength and emotion in Dorgoly’s words both surprised and moved me.
If there were something I didn’t like about the book, it would have to be the brevity of each story. As I read, I wanted to know more, hear more, feel more. Each story was presented as if it were a polaroid capturing that one harrowing moment where a person’s soul is stripped of all its meaning. I suggest this book for any mature reader. Its contents are too intense to make any real landing on an undeveloped mind but packs more than a punch for those who have learned to live. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars and earnestly hope that Dorgoly’s words bring peace to those still suffering.
The Buried Secrets of Peonies
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