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This slim little book caught my eye at our local thrift store. The blurb on the back made the book sound riveting. It was published in French in 1990, translated to English in 1994, and reprinted in 2011. The copy I picked up is a fairly new one, and came with rave reviews.

The Stoning of Soraya M., by Freidoune Sahebjam, covers the events leading up to and a bit of the aftermath of the stoning of an Iranian housewife for adultery. The woman’s abusive husband is a petty criminal who wants to remarry, so he conspires with a fake “holy” man, also a criminal, and some of the men from their tiny village  to do away with her. The narrative gives a little background on each of the main characters and on the situation in Iran at the time. Both the title and the blurb on the back of the book give away the ending, with the blurb including many of the details of the story.

This book disappointed me. The subject matter is an important one, and I had hoped that it would be treated with “searing immediacy”, to quote the blurb. The writing was so disjointed that it took away from the horror and injustice of the story. Events were related with little regard for chronological order, and few details of Soraya’s life were included. While those details may not have been available to the author, they could have been replaced with cultural information relevant to the story, which would have been beneficial.

The sort of mass hysteria that lead to the Salem Witch Trials is present in the “trial” and stoning, but it is barely touched on. More pages are devoted to the criminal antics of the two main male characters than to the life of the woman who was stoned. I was hoping for much more from this book, even though it is only 144 pages long, but it did not fulfill those hopes.

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