Most of us have knowledge of fundamentalist Iran and the severe restrictions it places on women. Still it is difficult to fathom just what a different life I would lead had I been born there. Simple everyday things such as the right to a full, unbiased education, the freedom to move away from my family home and experience any lifestyle I desired and ultimately being able to choose my own life partner (or not should I not find one I loved enough to marry). Most frighteningly though should I have ever found myself pregnant outside marriage I would have faced the possibility of being stoned to death for the sin of bringing shame to my family.
Leila is a young woman severely frustrated with her life. Forbidden from studying to become a teacher like she dreams of, she snatches small pockets of freedom by visiting the library. It is during one of those brief unsupervised excursions that she meets a handsome shopkeeper who ignites a passion in Leila that she never knew existed. This liaison sets Leila on a treacherous path that ultimately sees her meeting Kooshyar, but for a different reason that touches the young doctor deeply and ultimately changes his life.
Leila's Secret is an amazing story, as equally compelling as it is unfathomable (that this could happen in the late twentieth century). Kooshyar Karimi is a natural storyteller with a very easy to read style, despite the difficult subject matter. I immediately found myself fully invested in both stories, knowing that they must intersect at some point but surprised in the way they ultimately did. The book shines a light on a way in which women and their bodies have (and continue) to be abused and controlled, yet also demonstrates that good people exist everywhere and will put themselves at risk to help others.