In Tehran following the Iranian revolution, we follow a Jewish family through an extraordinary year beginning with the father's arrest. Religious and political arguments are highlighted within the family and threaten to divide them. There is a melancholic softness which makes the prison scenes bearable, and because of the heightened contrast, one of the best things in the book.
'How long have you been here?' he asks, deciding that the man's hostility has little to do with him.
'I'm not sure,' says the man. ''They came to my house in the middle of the night. My wife was hysterical. She insisted on making me a cheese sandwich before I left. I don't know what got into her. She cut the cheese, her hands shaking. She even put in some parsley and radishes. As she was about to hand me the sandwich one of the soldiers grabbed it from her, ate it in three or four bites, and said, "Thanks, Sister. How did you know I was starving?"' Hearing this story makes Isaac feel fortunate; his family at least had been spared a similar scene. 'This bench is killing my back,' the man continues. 'And they won't even let me use the bathroom.'
Isaac rests his head against the wall. How odd that he should get arrested today of all days, when he was going to make up his long absences to his wife and daughter by joining them for lunch.