A story about a young Iranian boy named Shahed, Houri goes from past to present and present to past. As a young boy in Iran, Shahed is constantly battling with his Baba (father), who is known to drink heavily, gamble and acquire mistresses. Shahed feels such sorrow for his mother who turns a blind eye. Because of Baba, the family lives in a small home with rats, one room to sleep and eat in. He borrows money from bookies, friends and even family, and spends most of it every night womanizing and partying. Even Shaded is stalked by the loan sharks wanting their money, and he cannot go back to his school because his father did not pay the tuition.
At the age of 12, Shaded meets a married woman by the name Houri, which means nymph. Houri is beautiful and exotic and wears beautiful Western clothes to the envy of other women. Baba starts to woo Houri and they become lovers, only adding to the boy’s hatred of his father.Though the name of the novel is Houri, she is only part of the story line for long enough to drive another wedge between Shahed and his father.
As a young adult, Shahed leaves Iran and goes to America where he works odd gas station jobs, and hides the fact that he is not in college. He begins dating Mary, who is bubbly and full of life. In contrast, Shahed is sorrowful and tainted by his childhood, causing Mary to eventually leave him for another boyfriend who wants to marry her.
After being in America for fourteen years, Shahed returns to Iran. He is shocked by the dismal surroundings, political unrest and public executions. It is not the Iran Shahed grew up in with Western music, the latest fashion is clothing, and even Western movies. He becomes so disillusioned with his home country that he decides to head back to America, but the politics and red tape in Iran are not easy. Luckily, he runs into an acquaintance who is able to give him a visa back to America. Walking through his old neighborhood in the U.S. once again, Shahed is full of resolve to make his way in his new country.
Houri is a tantalizing story of life in Iran, before and after the revolution. It is a comparison of the past Iran with all its joy, and its present state of unrest and political upheaval. A deep and thoughtful character, Shahed paints a beautiful picture of his homeland as a child. He reminds us how lucky we are to live in America, and truly makes me thankful for what I have. Ironically, Shahed’s story also leaves me wanting to visit Iran before the revolution and turmoil. Enjoy this beautifully narrated novel of a child’s life in Iran and his life as a man in America.