Title: Together Tea
Author: Marjane Kamali
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Ecco Books
Genre: Cultural Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Mina is fed up with her mother’s attempts to arrange her marriage, but Darya only wants what is best for her daughter—after all, it’s the traditional Iranian way. But Mina feels lost and confused, unsure of who she is or what she wants to become. She has left business school to pursue her dreams of becoming an artist, but she still feels unmoored. Mina makes a deal with Darya: She wants to return to Tehran for a visit, a place she left in the 1979 turmoil at the age of 10, a place her parents have forbid Mina from going. In return, she will follow the path they have laid out for her. Mina is surprised when Darya not only agrees, but chooses to accompany Mina on this life-changing trip.
Together Tea is a thoughtful novel about two Iranian women who are more alike than they seem. The novel begins in the year 1996, when Darya is trying to arrange Mina’s marriage, jumps back to pre-revolution Iran, when Mina was 10 and life was getting more and more difficult in the revolutionary country, and then comes back to 1996. This worked tolerably well, but the latter two parts are the strongest portions of the novel; the first part doesn’t really draw the reader in. Once you get past this, though, Kamali’s writing and descriptions bring the novel to life.
The two most important aspects of Together Tea are setting and characters, and Kamali writes both well. Iran’s food, culture, and locales burst forth off the page for the reader, and readers will become immersed in Mina and Darya’s internal struggles. It would be easy to vilify Darya as a nosy, meddling mother, but because Kamali gives this character her own voice as well, the reader comes to understand her. All in all, this is a well done read. It had its weak points in the beginning section, but Kamali brings it together by the middle of the novel and it makes for an entertaining and eye-opening read.