The first pages pull off an impressive act, juggling the stuff of dreams with the all too real ... passages risk being congenial to flat repetition and hand-me-down phrasing ('in the blink of an eye'), and a few times I fretted about the translation. Yet by and large the fabulist business proves delightful. I especially enjoyed the metamorphosis of Bahar’s sister, who ends up a mermaid. Better still, such materials always reveal their roots in the loam built up over millennia of Persian storytelling ... Azar's...work stands as another of the terrific fictions, a number of them by women, out of this tormented region and moment. It affirms again the adaptability, the veracity, the sheer power of the novel form.
Though steeped in grim political realities, the novel reads like a tall tale ... Azar strikes a remarkable balance between the fantastical and historical fact. What unites these two fronts is an exactness, by way of enumeration and time, which lends credibility to both aspects of the narrative. Events are chronicled with exaggerated precision ... Elsewhere, steps are enumerated, as if navigating a treasure map. What is inexact, however, is the toll of violence ... We can only estimate the number of lives lost in the Islamic Revolution and its violent aftermath.