I read Not Without My Daughter over twenty years ago. It was one of my 'discoveries' as I was shelf-reading the shelves in my high school library. (Not even nonfiction was safe to assign me! I was prone to getting distracted.) At the time I didn't read a lot of nonfiction, and, I certainly didn't associate nonfiction with "compelling" and "fascinating." But it was a quick read that I remember really getting absorbed in. That being said, do I remember many details?! Of course not! And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It allowed me to pick up My Name is Mahtob with fresh eyes. There was no need to compare and contrast accounts or memories. And as soon as the author said that she had never read her mother's book, I felt a bit relieved if I'm honest.
So how much of the book is focused on her time in Iran? Just a chapter or two. Maybe slightly more. Her experiences certainly shaped her life in one way or another. But perhaps not in the way one would expect. Once back in the United States, her mother wrote a book, her mother went on tour with the book, did book signings, gave lectures, traveled not just around the country, but, to other parts of the world, there was a movie deal, etc. Sometimes Mahtob stayed in school and had a "normal" life though perhaps it's not normal to attend elementary school with a false name--a new name. But she certainly did a fair amount of traveling with her mother, and was a person of interest to the media. Through it all, through several decades, the two lived in fear that her father would retaliate. That more drama would find them. Would her father try to find them? Would Mahtob be kidnapped?
The book focuses on her growing up years--her school-age years, from kindergarten through college, I'd say. A few chapters follow about her adult years--home/family life, working, dating/socializing, etc.
The book focuses on a handful of big things: the effect of her childhood trauma (for lack of a better word), her health problems growing up with Lupus, her vigilance to stay safe and yet deal with the past in a healthy way, and how her Christian faith has shaped/defined her.
Is the book "too" Christian? I think honesty is best. It is published by Christian publishing house. There is no denying that. And the author is a Christian--defines herself as being Christian. Her faith matters to her. And she speaks openly and honestly about being a person of faith, of being a Christian. While unashamedly saying that she *is* a Christian, she stresses the importance of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. How every single person should have the freedom to believe or not believe whatever they want, to worship or not worship as they personally see fit, to make their own choices about how to live, what is right for them. So, yes, she mentions Jesus.
Other reviews I've seen complain about the "Christian" content. That somehow because she mentions God in the pages of her life, in her life story, that the book loses appeal, and, potentially readers. This makes no sense to me.
She certainly didn't ask for fame. And her life might have been different if they'd never gone to Iran to visit her father's side of the family. But this is a memoir, and it should reflect a whole life, a whole person. If there is a message in the book, it is, I think that one person can make a difference, that every individual matters, that choosing forgiveness means choosing joy.
I found this one a compelling read. I am going to try to reread Not Without My Daughter soon.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews