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The Rose Hotel: A True-Life Novel    by Rahimeh Andalibian order for
Rose Hotel
by Rahimeh Andalibian
Order:  USA  Can
Nightingale Press, 2012 (2012)
*   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

The Rose Hotel begins in Iran around the time of the 1979 revolution when Reza Shah was deposed and Ayatollah Khomeini returned from France. Rahimeh Andalibian and her family were wealthy Iranians, living in a large, beautiful house behind the hotel that her father owned.

A devout Muslim, her father ran the hotel as he ran his life, allowing no music or alcoholic beverages and catering to religious pilgrims visiting nearby holy sites in Mashhad. Rahimeh's mother wore a full chador - a heavy one that completely covered her for outside; and a prettier, lighter one for inside the house. Her father kept a strict Muslim household. The oldest son, fifteen-year-old Abdollah was already learning the business and working in the hotel every day with his father. Rahimeh was four at the beginning of this account, and had three other brothers, Hadi, ten, Zain, six, and Iman, two.

A terrible crime is committed in their town, and Rahimeh's father is told by the Supreme Ayatollah to find the criminals. After he locates them, he is given the job of hiding them in his hotel until the new regime is in place, when they can be properly arrested and brought to justice. Rahimeh's father and Abdollah also have the job of hiding a local ayatollah and keeping his family fed during this time of revolution. After the revolution, though, new, young ayatollahs take over the justice system. In spite of her father's standing as a devout Muslim with his record of assistance, Abdollah is accused of a crime, and what happens to him becomes an ongoing tragedy for his family.

This book is called a true-life novel. It reads more like a slightly fictionalized memoir, with the events being true, though the accounts of events contain conversations, and perhaps some facts, that the author could not have known at the time. The memories of the whole family, sometimes years later, provide the story. Unfortunately, what really happened to Abdollah became the big secret that's never talked about by this family. The children grew up not knowing where Abdollah was and being lied to about what happened to him. Only the parents and Hadi know the truth. He feels the need to protect his younger siblings, so he keeps the secret along with his parents, and they all feel guilty.

The Rose Hotel has an interesting story to tell, but it's awkwardly written, with a lot of unnecessary repetition. The book should have been more carefully edited, or even written with the assistance of a ghostwriter whose native language is English, since the author's native language is Farsi. There are many typos and a lot of incomprehensible phrasing. One wonders why no one noticed such mistakes as 'you're are' or 'a decorative bowel.' Perhaps the author didn't let enough time pass between the events and her account and found revisiting memories too painful for careful revising. This is an intensely personal memoir/novel that might have been therapeutic for the author, but is uncomfortable to read.

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