Darya, her husband Parviz, two sons and daughter Mina all fled Iran for New York City when the Revolutionary Army took over the country. Having escaped recruitment into the army, the sons went on to become a doctor and lawyer. Mina wanted to become an artist but to please her parents went to graduate school in business instead.
Although responsive to many of the old Iranian customs, Mina chafed against her mother's matchmaking efforts. Darya, fascinated by math, worked out a formula to find just the right Iranian husband for Mina. Mina called an end to the idea when the latest suitor, an older man from Atlanta, shared no common interests and showed no signs of wanting the match himself.
Meantime, at the urging of Parviz, Darya had enrolled in a night school math course. There she found herself attracted to a male classmate, which led to having coffee after class. Parviz was aware of the attraction but voiced no objections.
However, when Darya and Mina announced plans to pay a visit to family in Iran, Parviz protested strongly, fearing for their lives. The women proceeded despite his fears.
In Iran the women were united not only with family but also with Mina's old childhood friend Bita. Bita has always been rebellious and fearless. She held a party for Mina at their ultra-modern home, where behind secure doors, the young people drank, danced and embraced freely -- all reasons for torture or death by the Guard. Mina did not fit in and felt old-fashioned and strange in this setting despite her free life in New York.
Retreating to the kitchen, Mina met a man with whom she felt an instant attraction. Another Iranian who had fled to the U.S., he would later become her husband. In a twist to the story, he is identified as the brother of Mina's last suitor.
The book is in three sections. The first follows the life of the family in New York. The second reveals the years before they came to the U.S. The final is about the trip to Iran and what happened in the U.S. in the years after.
The author excels at describing details such as food, preparation of tea, the wedding ceremony, architecture of buildings and gardens and life in the shops and bazaars. Without becoming overly political, she shows the impact of the Iranian regime change on the lives of ordinary people. Her description of the death of the grandmother is particularly compelling. The fear many Iranians felt is palpable.
She is less skilled in plot design. Marrying the brother of a former suitor is just a little too coy. The romance alone would have sufficed. During the visit to Iran, Bita and Mina visit an ancient city. In defiance, Bita removes her head covering. A Guard comes to arrest her. Mina fells him with a karate kick to the groin. Both run and escape imprisonment. This seems a false and added device. In many senses the addition of a male companion for Darya also seems contrived. The book would have been equally compelling without any of these.