The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life
Five weeks after her father's death, Jasmin Darznik is helping her Iranian mother, Lili, sort through their belongings in preparation for a move to smaller quarters. When a faded photograph falls out of a pack of letters, Jasmin is shocked to see her mother standing with a mystery man. Even more stunning is the fact that it’s obviously a wedding picture and she appears to be in her early teens and on the brink of tears.
When Jasmin questions her mother about the photo and the circumstances surrounding it, her mother responds by announcing that it has nothing to do with her, leaving her to wonder who the man is and why she has never heard of him or this previous marriage before.
Eventually Lili breaks her silence and begins sending cassette tapes from her home in California to Jasmin on the East Coast. As she listens to each of the 10 tapes recorded by her mother over a period of time, Jasmin hears the story of her mother's life in Iran and comes to know her mother in a new and deeper way. Events from the past that made no sense are suddenly much clearer now.
Lili's story could belong to any woman raised in Iran during the same time period. An abusive husband, a family life that's too close for comfort and an environment where women have little or no say about their future is a world that Jasmin has no memory of. Although she was born in Iran, her family fled the Islamic Revolution and moved to America in the late ’70s when she was only five years old, and she grew up in a different world from that of her parents. What Jasmin doesn't realize is that she is not her mother's first, or only, child. Jasmin has an older sister, Sara, the daughter of the man in the photo, who she has never met and who still lives in Iran.
In THE GOOD DAUGHTER, Jasmin Darznik tells her mother's story and her own. She tells of an Iranian-American childhood spent in shame and her unattainable goal of trying to do nothing more than fit in. She also tells of her mother's stories of how Good Daughters behave and how she fell short of being a Good Daughter in every way. The book allows us an in-depth look at the appallingly different lifestyle women lead in Iran, as opposed to what they experience in America. It tells us a story of a family torn apart by abuse and by war, and how they went on to make a good life in America while still being haunted by the ghosts of the past.
THE GOOD DAUGHTER is a riveting story of three generations of strong women and how they persevered against the odds to enjoy a new life in a new land. I highly recommend this book, which will leave you shocked and inspired.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on November 3, 2011