It is 1979, and the Islamic Revolution is at the doorstep of one family's fruit orchard in Northeastern Iran. The simplicity of family life becomes more difficult to maintain as each character's path becomes more complex by the risk of losing love, duty, traditions, and their safety. Not necessarily a light read, but a rich, lyrical story.
“Set during the Iranian Revolution, To Keep the Sun Alive is a beautifully written family epic that will completely wrap you up. It’s a sweeping novel about identity and tradition, and it’s full of characters you won’t soon forget. Ghaffari masterfully blends the historical with the imagined, and her writing is wise and precise. An excellent novel!”
— Sarah Cassavant, SubText Books, St. Paul, MN
Summer 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List
“Casting us back to a turning point in Iranian history, To Keep the Sun Alive beautifully renders a world of contrasts. When Bibi’s family gathers for lunch, there are many world views both around the table and hidden from view. Acceptance and fundamentalism, romance and tradition, love and violence are all present, daring her to try to keep the peace amongst such passionate advocates. Bibi’s husband is the voice of moderation, while his brother is a fundamentalist mullah, and the weight of their choices has devastating repercussions. Rabeah Ghaffari’s impressive debut will leave you reeling. As more is revealed and the deadly conflict finally arrives, the impact of what was lost during the revolution becomes palpable.”
— Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
"How do we recognize the moment our future has been written for us? In To Keep the Sun Alive, as the Islamic Revolution looms just outside the gate of an Iranian family orchard, Rabeah Ghaffari has built a world so lush, so precise that you will find yourself rewriting history if only to imagine it could still exist."--Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing A] tenderhearted début novel . . . A wide-ranging narrative, showing the enduring ramifications of filial and political violence. --The New Yorker The year is 1979. The Iranian Revolution is just around the corner. In the northeastern city of Naishapur, a retired judge and his wife, Bibi-Khanoom, continue to run their ancient family orchard, growing apples, plums, peaches, and sour cherries. The days here are marked by long, elaborate lunches on the terrace where the judge and his wife mediate disputes between aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews that foreshadow the looming national crisis to come. Will the monarchy survive the revolutionary tide gathering across the country? Will the judge's brother, a powerful cleric, take political control of the town or remain only a religious leader? And yet, life goes on. Bibi-Khanoom's grandniece secretly falls in love with the judge's grandnephew and dreams of a career on the stage. His other grandnephew withers away on opium dreams. A widowed father longs for a life in Europe. A strained marriage slowly unravels. The orchard trees bloom and fruit as the streets in the capital grow violent. And a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse, set to occur on one of the holiest days of year, finally causes the family--and the country--to break. Told through a host of unforgettable characters, ranging from servants and young children to intimate friends, To Keep the Sun Alive reveals the personal behind the political, reminding us of the human lives that animate historical events.
About the Author
RABEAH GHAFFARI was born in Iran and lives in New York City. She is a filmmaker and writer whose collaborative fiction with artist Shirin Neshat was featured in Reflections on Islamic Art, and whose documentary, The Troupe, featured Tony Kushner. Her most recent feature-length screenplay, The Inheritors, was commissioned by producer/costume designer Patricia Field. To Keep the Sun Alive is her first novel.