Rooftops of Tehran


Status: Read from Jan 9 to Jan 13, 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 345
My rating: 5star/5
Author: Mahbod Seraji

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In a middle-class neighbourhood in Iran’s sprawling capital city, seventeen year old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend, Ahmed, joking around and talking about the future. Even as Pasha asks burning questions about life, he also wrestles with a crushing secret. He has fallen in love with his beautiful neighbour Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. And despite Pasha’s guilt-ridden feeling for her, over the long, hot days his tentative friendship with Zari deepens into a rich emotional bond.

But the bliss of those perfect stolen months is shattered in a single night, when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah’s secret police. The violent consequences awaken Pasha and his friends to the reality of living under the rule of a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice from which Pasha may never fully recover.

In a poignant, funny, eye-opening, and emotionally vivid debut novel, Mahbod Seraji lays bare the beauty and brutality infused in the centuries-old Persian culture, while reaffirming the human experiences we all share: laughter, tears, love, fear and above all, hope.


An amazing and wonderful book. Captivating, moving novel about courage, sacrifice, love, friendship and coming of age. I could not put the book down till I finished reading it. All four main characters Ahmed, Pasha, Zari and Faheemeh have come to life. I laughed at Ahmed’s pranks and cried for Zari, doctor and Pasha. The story is set in the year 1973 – 74, a period of political unrest during the reign of Shah’s dictatorship in Iran. This book also gives a very good insight on rich Persian culture.

I love the way the book begins. Pasha is in mental asylum recovering a severe head injury. A part of his memory is completely erased. In parallel the story narrates how Pasha has ended up in the asylum.

Pasha is the main character in this book. He spend his starry nights on his rooftop with his friend Ahmed often discussing about life, future and making fun. Pasha has a secret crush on her beautiful neighbour Zari. He does not know when his crush for Zari turns into un-dying love. Pasha feels guilty to love Zari and cannot announce his love for Zari publicly as Zari’s marriage is already fixed. Zari is going to get married to none other than doctor. A person who is a mentor and friend to Pasha. Pasha, Ahmed, Zari and Faheemeh spends a good time during the summer when their friendship deepens. But their happiness is shattered by the capture of doctor by the SAVAK. After this event there are many hearth breaking moments in the book. This book really made me cry. Zari’s action was shocking and unexpected. It broke my heart. It pained to see the affect it had on Pasha. Pasha had to stay in asylum for three months to recover.

Ahmed is the coolest character I have ever come across in any book. I appreciate his courage and the capability to take right decision and to stick to it. He has the capability to bring a smile onto your face in the worst of the situations. My respect for him only increased when he stood up for his love for Faheemeh and declared it openly. He is also best friend, advisor and guide to Pasha in his all decisions and steps in life. He is the best role model for a good friend in life. He behaves very maturely when he is captured by the SAVAK (Iranian police) for interrogation. I laughed hard, when he memorised every word of the holy Koran, just to teach a good lesson to his religious teacher Mr. Gorjis.

Iraj might not be the main character in the story. He is a boy who always tries to get the attention of girls in the locality. He even eyes’ Ahmed’s sister. And for this Ahmed and Pasha hates him. But he knows what’s friendship is. He stops Ahmed and Pasha from going to doctor’s grave for the fear that SAVAK may catch them both for being connected to doctor. But when Ahmed and Pasha does not listen to him, he runs behind their taxi and comes to doctor’s grave site, just to join them, despite knowing that the SAVAK was watching.

The story shows how the people are helpless under Shah’s ruthless and cruel rule. There are moments when your heart will burn with hatred for Shah’s dictatorship. SAVAK captures doctor without giving a where about of him to his family and one day just appear with the bullet that they used to kill him and ask for the price to bring them his body back. They even deny the family members to mourn his death and wear black attire as is their custom. They completely erase his existence. For the fear of SAVAK and to keep their only daughter Zari alive, Zari’s parents has to declare to the society that Zari is dead. Life is shattered with lost hopes and destroyed dreams.

This book also gives beautiful comparison between the American and Persian culture.

“I wonder how we can explain this national impulse to cheat. Maybe it’s more a matter of sharing than cheating. I’ve heard that people in the West compete at everything, and that you’re either a loser or a winner. In my country, we don’t have that same competitive spirit. Centuries of misery under the dominance of the Moguls, Arabs, and internal despotic rulers have conditioned us to stick together and help each other through unpleasant situations.”

This book is a journey in emotional roller-coaster with bittersweet experiences. All character will fall in the favourite list. Even I loved Pasha’s father for his way of giving a moral or lesson to his son by means of a story of real time experience. I was drawn by the emotions of the locality and celebrated their every happy moments and cried my heart out for doctor’s death, Zari’s extreme step to mourn doctor’s death and for Pasha and his love for Zari. This book has so many beautiful, philosophical quotes on life.

“Life’s short, way too short. Enjoy every breath you take because no one knows what comes next. Through the eyes of creation, the time each of us spends on this planet is no longer than a blink! We have to live our lives trusting in God’s judgment. There’s a reason for everything. Don’t waste your time asking God why because God doesn’t talk back. Somewhere down the road, though, he shows you signs that help you understand why things are the way they are.”

The way the book ended does not seem practical or real. But I will take it as it’s a happy ending. I cannot be much happier for Pasha and Zari. I wonder if this is author’s true story. This will remain a mystery. I just wish this book had a sequel.

Find more quotes from Rooftops of Tehran here.


About the Author:

mahbod seraji

Mahbod Seraji was born in Iran and moved to the United States in 1976 at the age of nineteen. He attended the University of lowa, where he received an MA in film and broadcasting and a Ph.D in instructional design and technology. He currently works as a management consultant, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.




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