Set in 17th century Persia, a nameless 14-year-old girl and her parents live a fairly happy life as she contemplates the prospect of marriage within the year. When a comet streaks across the sky, superstitious villagers take predictions of doom to heart including the prophecy that all who are contracted to marry that year will see a life of strife. Naturally, the young narrator is disturbed by this news but willingly succumbs to her father’s soothing promises that suddenly fall short in the face of his unexpected death. Poor and without other resources, the young woman and her mother move to Isfahan, home of Gostaham, their only living relative where they begin a life of servitude under the heel of their nasty tempered, greedy aunt.
Gostaham is a master carpet maker and it is there that our heroine makes use of her interest in rugs as she begins learning the fine art under his careful tutelage. Regrettably, although she possesses the talent and will to excel, gender restrictions of the time will not allow her become a master in her own right. At the aunt’s instigation, the girl finds herself in a temporary, secret marriage contract with a wealthy horse trader who does not intend to permanently marry a penniless wife. She learns the pleasures and cost of such a union when revealing the secret to her best friend results in banishment from Gostaham’s household. Somehow, between begging for enough for her mother and her to live on and battling the inevitable despair that comes from living on the streets, the young woman must rise above crushing circumstances and let her gift shine.
An outstanding debut that plunges readers back in a time when a woman was valued only for her virtue, this is an engrossing look inside the rug merchants world. A nice collection of fantasy tales are woven throughout the main story, much like the threads of a rug and although the language is occasionally overly flowery, this is a charming book.