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It was an annus horribilis for Iran's Supreme Leader. The Green Movement had been crushed, but the regime was on edge, anxious lest democratic protests resurge. International sanctions were dragging down the economy while talk of war with the West grew. Hooman Majd was there for all of it. A new father at age fifty, he decided to take his blonde, blue-eyed Midwestern yoga instructor wife Karri and his adorable, only-eats-organic infant son Khash from their hip Brooklyn neighborhood to spend a year in the land of his birth. It was to be a year of discovery for Majd, too, who had only lived in Iran as a child.
The audiobook opens ominously as Majd is stopped at the airport by intelligence officers who show him a four-inch thick security file about his books and journalism and warn him not to write about Iran during his stay. Majd brushes it off - but doesn't tell Karri - and the family soon settles in to the rituals of middle class life in Tehran: Finding an apartment (which requires many thousands of dollars, all of which, bafflingly, is returned to you when you leave), a secure internet connection (one that persuades the local censors you are in New York) and a bootlegger (self-explanatory). Karri masters the head scarf, but not before being stopped for mal-veiling, twice. They endure fasting at Ramadan and keep up with Khash in a country weirdly obsessed with children.
All the while, Majd fields calls from security officers and he and Karri eye the headlines - the arrest of an American "spy," the British embassy riots, the Arab Spring - and wonder if they are pushing their luck. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay is a sparkling account of life under a quixotic authoritarian regime that offers rare and intimate insight into a country and its people, as well as a personal story of exile and a search for the meaning of home.
Would you listen to The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay again? Why?
Yes. Engaging story, lots of detail.
Did the narration match the pace of the story?
The reader's voice conveys heavy sarcasm, and has me cringing as I listen. The author's own voice is much more pleasant; wish he had done the reading.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Tales of arrest and emprisonment are frightening, especially since I plan to visit Iran soon!
I love this book, gives an unvarnished view of Iran and Persian culture. I say unvarnished, but really mean not filtered through our political differences. Not a super fan of the narrator, very flat. Although it may be the choice of the author.
Where does The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
It's pretty good. There's probably not a whole lot in it that people don't already know but it's interesting just the same.
What do you think the narrator could have done better?
The narrator sounds like he's reading off index cards.