December Discussion #HWRbooks: The Stationery Shop

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Roya’s mother had always said that our fate is written on our foreheads when we’re born. It can’t be seen, can’t be read, but it’s there in invisible ink all right, and life follows that fate. No matter what.” (pg 4)

Have you ever wondered what life would have been like had one tiny little thing played out differently? Would if you wouldn’t have made the train that day where you ended up meeting your future spouse? Or would if you wouldn’t have gone on that blind date where you totally hit it off with that special person? Or would if your country wouldn’t have experienced a coup the day you were supposed to meet your beloved at the town square?

The Stationery Shop is a book that inadvertently explores that idea. Roya is supposed to meet her boyfriend, Bahman, in the town square at a particular time, but on that same day, there is a staged coup to overthrow the Iranian leader. They never end up meeting and, as a result, both of their lives drastically change direction.

Roya moves to the United States with her sister to pursue an education. Bahman ends up marrying a woman of his mother’s choosing. Through a mutual friend, Roya and Bahman keep track of each other’s lives. When that friend dies, their “connection” to each other is lost. Life goes on (as it does) until Roya encounters a man that strangely reminds her of her long lost love. Will she finally find out what happened that day, sixty years ago, that changed the direction of her life forever?

“We do not always get what we want, Roya Khanom. Things do not always work out the way we planned. Those who are young tend to think that life’s tragedies and miseries and its bullets will somehow miss them. That they can buoy themselves with naīve hope and energy. They think, wrongly, that shomehow youth or desire or even love can outmatch the hand of fate. The truth is, my young lady, that fate has written the script for your destiny on your forehead from the very beginning. We can’t see it. But it’s there. And the young, who love so passionately, have no idea how ugly this world is. This world is without compassion.” (pg 127)

What worked for me:

  • I loved the theme of fate woven throughout the entire story. I’m very much intrigued by the whole “sliding doors” concept (remember that movie?!?!)…I’m always wondering, “what if this had happened instead, how would that have affected this…”
  • The characters! I loved them all in their own way (well, except Mrs. Aslan. I don’t see any redeeming qualities in her.)
    • Roya and her independance and strength to pick herself back up after all her heartbreak.
    • Bahman for his activism and for standing up so strongly for his beliefs. And for continuing to love Roya through the years in a way that inspired him to create a bookshop reminiscent of where they met.
    • Zari for her foresight and endless amounts of warnings.
    • Walter for his patience, support, and acceptance of Roya and her past
    • Fakhri for his bookshop and his small hand in Roya and Bahman’s budding romance.
    • Roya’s parents for their modern thinking – for accepting their two daughters (in a society that values a son more than a daughter) and for wanting them to be educated and independent!
    • Jahangir and his dedication to his friendship with Roya and Bahman.
  • The political information throughout the novel. I went down a rabbit hole on Google to read a little more about the coup mentioned in the book and I was fascinated by what I learned!
  • Learning even just a little bit about Iran and its complicated history. I would love to learn more! A glimpse into the Iranian culture was fascinating!

What didn’t work for me:

  • Simplistic in its delivery…from the overall story to the language and syntax used. It just felt a little shallow to me, and maybe I noticed it more because it had such potential to have a lot more depth.
  • For me, the pacing fell apart towards the end. It took awhile for the story to build up and then it speeds through the last 25% of the book. I missed the depth the first half of the book possessed and wish it would have carried through to the end.
  • Mrs. Aslan – I understand that she had a mental illness and that was the driving force behind her dispicable character, but for me, she wasn’t convincing. Instead of feeling that sympathy, I questioned her diagnosis of mental illness and wondered if she really just suffered from narcissistic and manipulative behavior.

Overall, this was a great book and I would recommend it to others. The few things I didn’t like about it weren’t deal breakers. Thoughout the story, I had hope for Roya and Bahman ending up together, but even when they didn’t, it was satisfying to know that they both had happy and fulfilling lives. The story came full circle by the end and it was the perfect feel good story admist the craziness of the holiday season!

Discussion time:

Below, you’ll find some discussion questions. Please reply and discuss at your leisure. Beware…there could be spoilers!

  1. Fate is a huge theme throughout the book. What are your thoughts on fate and how it related to Roya’s life? Did it seem like her life was mostly guided by fate, by her own personal decisions, or by entirely other influences?
  2. Mrs. Aslan had a huge influence on Roya and Bahman’s relationship. Do you respect Bahman for standing by his mother, or do you think he should have stopped letting her manipulate him and lived his own life?
  3. How do you feel about Fakhri’s role in breaking up Roya and Bahman? Do you think he owed Mrs. Aslan or do you think he should have stayed out of it?
  4. Going back to the idea of fate…do you believe in fate? Do you think there’s only one path written for us or multiple options that will be just as good? Do you think Roya would have had a better life with Bahman?
  5. What frustrated you about the book, the characters, or the choices made? How would you have changed it? What would you have liked to see happen?
  6. What are your overall thoughts on the book? What would you rate it? Would you recommend it to a friend?

Stay tuned for the January selection which I’ll be announcing on January 2, 2020! I hope you’ll join me for the buddy read and the discussion to follow!

5 thoughts on “December Discussion #HWRbooks: The Stationery Shop

  1. I enjoyed the read and learning about a different culture ……. my concerns involve all the highly coincidental events at the end of the story…not too realistic! But overall an engaging and heartfelt story! I gave it 4.5 Stars (.5 removed for ending) It reminded me a bit of Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

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  2. I tend to find books that deal with questions about fate or what-ifs a bit frustrating, because things almost but not quite working out in stories is one of my pet peeves. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. Maybe I just like something more escapist in fiction, where little accidents don’t prevent a happy ending 🙂

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