I’d somehow got it into my head that Khashayar J. Khabushani was a poet which was part of the attraction of his debut, I Will Greet the Sun Again, but it turns out that its title is a quote from a poem by Forugh Farrokhzad, one of Iran’s foremost female poets, whose work was banned after the Islamic Revolution. It’s the perfect fit for this quietly beautiful coming-of-age story which follows a young American boy from his difficult childhood to the beginning of a new life, one he’s chosen for himself.
Thinking about who it is I’m supposed to be, where to even begin.
K is the youngest of three boys born to an Iranian couple who have made America their home. Their unemployed father left his job as a Boeing engineer, his mood reflecting his luck at the casino where he spends his nights. Their mother works as a nursing assistant, studying hard to qualify further with little time left for K and his brothers. They live in a tiny apartment in the Valley downstairs from Johnny, three years K’s senior, who he adores. The boys learn to negotiate their way around their parents’ rows but after a particularly violent outburst find themselves flown without warning to their father’s ancestral home in Iran. After an anguished few months, their aunt arranges their flight home where they pick up lives made easier by their father’s absence. Shawn and Justin begin to establish their own lives while K tentatively explores his sexuality. When his father announces he’s returning home, K knows that it’s time to begin a new life but that it’s to be one of his choosing not an act of escape.
When he reaches to grab the pack of cigarettes, the top of his waist brushes against my arm and the smell of his skin, a mix of cologne and cigarette smoke and sweat, slips down and I can taste it on my lip, where I wish it would stay.
Inevitably, many first novels tend to be autobiographical. I’m not sure to what extent this one is although Khabushani’s biographical notes mention that he spent time in Iran as a child and it’s those passages that are the most vividly striking in a novel notable for its understatement. K tells us his own story, its present tense lending it a bright immediacy. The relationship between the three brothers is particularly affecting; these are boys who’ve raised themselves, their roughhousing overtaken by protectiveness when things get sticky for K. There’s a great deal of heartbreak in his life yet his brothers’ support helps him emerge from the long shadow of his father’s influence and abuse into the hope of a future of his own making. A quietly impressive debut, well worth looking out for.
Viking: London 9780241514733 212 pages Hardback (Read via NetGalley)