Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review: My Name is Mahtob

In late middle school or early high school, I had the pleasure of reading the international best seller and infamous inspiration to the same named movie Not Without My Daughter.  Through both the original print telling and the cinematic Sally Field version, I was absolutely entranced, horrified, and curious about the story of Betty and Mahtob Mahmoody.  A seemingly happy, "American Dream" life with husband and father of Iranian descent, Moody.  In what seemed like a flash, their life turned upside down as a supposed two week vacation to meet Moody's family in the middle of the Iranian Revolution turned into an 18 month captivity- held prisoner out of fear of a turned violent man and the religious rules and traditions of a country that was not in cooperative standing with their own homeland.  Betty and Mahtob's dramatic escape through Kurdish country and across snowy mountains to Turkey and finally their return to the United States was wonderfully portrayed in Betty's novel.  However, it left me longing for more of their story.  While I have not read Betty's subsequent follow up, I was delighted to have the opportunity to read Mahtob's version of the events and hear about her life since escape.  In her first own memoir, My Name is Mahtob we finally get to hear from her.

While not a huge expose of new information into her life in Iran, Mahtob provides insights from a 6 year old perspective on many of the things her mother talked about in her book.  The smells, foods, people, air raids, abuse all through a child's eyes.  She is open about not remembering many details, but rather photographic imprints on her mind of emotions she faced.  I can't help but think how God protects the young and innocent from horrific experiences in similar ways.  I was intrigued by her experiences within the school room- students required to spit or stomp on the American Flag as they entered each day, the early childhood training of following rules with no creative or independent thought, and the deep hatred for anything American imprinted on the young lives of school children.  Knowing I'm essentially a peer of Mahtob's, I now have a growing understanding and empathy for those who are now in their 30's in Iran.  Knowing the education and upbringing they received during their childhoods helps at least give an understanding (though not an excuse) for behaviors today.

The escape from Iran and subsequent return to America was briefly highlighted as well, but most of Mahtob's story is her path of healing in the decades following her return.  Forgiving her father, embracing her Persian heritage, healing from emotional and psychological wounds, dealing with the constant fear and threat of being kidnapped (legally) by her father and returning to Iran, overcoming a debilitating illness, and attempting to grow up as "normal" as possible.  Mahtob is open, honest, and does not skirt around her true feelings during this time.  Her vulnerability was what captured my heart and attention throughout the book.  She grows from being a young child you want to hug and rescue and almost feel sorry for to a beautiful young lady you admire and desire your daughters to be like.

My Name is Mahtob concludes, unfortunately, on a rather slow note with many letters of correspondence she finally reads between a family friend and her father.  While I'm sure important to her story of healing and letting go (especially after her father's death), it was quite laborious to read through and many of the points had already been raised and proven through more exciting stories in her past.  

Overall, this is a wonderful follow up to those who have read Not Without My Daughter.  Be prepared for a more scattered writing style, as if you are opening up the journal of a young woman, not turning the pages of a well planned manuscript.  While heartfelt and genuine, it often jumps from topic to topic more rapidly than one is prepared for.  My Name is Mahtob is well worth your time.

*I received a free copy of this book for my unbiased review from BookLookBloggers