To Keep The Sun Alive (Catapult)
"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
The year is 1979. The Iranian Revolution is just around the corner, as is a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse. Meanwhile, in the northeastern city of Naishapur, a retired judge and his wife, Bibi, run an ancient orchard, growing apples, plums, peaches, and sour cherries, and looking after several generations of family members. The days here are marked by long, elaborate lunches on the terrace and arguments about government corruption and the rise of religious fundamentalism, peppered with tales of ancient Persia that foreshadow the seismic political changes to come. And yet life continues. Bibi, the matriarch, struggles to keep her family together. Her young nephew goes to university, hoping to lead the fight for a new Iran and marry his childhood sweetheart. Another nephew surrenders to opium, while his father longs for a life in Europe. Her brother-in-law evolves into a powerful Islamic cleric while her husband retreats into intellectual reflection. Told through a host of vivid, unforgettable characters, ranging from children to servants to friends of the family, To Keep the Sun Alive is the kind of compelling, rich story that not only informs the past, but also reminds us of the human aspirations that animate historical events.
Praise for To Keep The Sun Alive
“In her lush and atmospheric debut, author Ghaffari sketches a complex portrait of a country on the brink of revolution and explores the poignant ways political unrest can bind or tear families apart . . . A nuanced, character-driven exploration of a formative moment in a country’s complicated history. An evocative and deeply felt narrative portrait.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Ghaffari’s exciting debut is a family epic centered on several months in 1979 . . . Ghaffari weaves each character’s deep history into the novel, creating a very complete world. Her poetic prose relays deep and intimate emotion in a single line; its richness makes characters’ joys and tragedies palpably felt by readers, too. This is a beautifully written story of a family’s upheaval and its roots in their own history.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Written in rich, enrapturing prose, To Keep the Sun Alive transports us into the world of a vibrant, multigenerational family and their ancestral fruit orchard. Rabeah Ghaffari evokes an Iran on the brink of revolution, in a story of love, uprising, familial bonds, and the lives behind history books.”—Hala Alyan, author of Salt Houses
Rabeah Ghaffari was born in Iran and lives in New York City. She is a film editor and writer, whose collaborative fiction with artist Shirin Neshat was featured in Reflections on Islamic Art, and her documentary, The Troupe, featured Tony Kushner. To Keep the Sun Alive is her first novel.
Rabeah Ghaffari photo by Angela Levin