The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali is primarily a love story. Bahman and Roya fall in love in 1950s Iran, during the ousting of the prime minister. They first meet at The Stationery Shop, owned by Ali. There, he gave them a chance to be alone, and their love grew. They become engaged and plan to get married, but Bahman’s mother, Badri, is against the match. She convinces the bookseller, Ali, to use his calligraphy skills to edit the letter sent from Bahman to Roya so that they miss a planned meeting. Then, he writes letters to each of the lovers to let the other know that the other no longer wants to get married. In this way, Bahman’s mother can advance her social position as planned by having Bahman marry the woman she chose for him.
Why does Ali agree to Intercede?
Ali agrees to do as Badri wishes because she guilts him into it. When she was 14, Ali fell in love with her, and she gave herself to him. He promised to marry her, but his father had other plans. He failed to defy his father, and she never forgave him for it. She aborted his child on her own and blamed him for the 3 other miscarriages/stillbirths she had afterward. Bahman was the only one of her children who survived, and she set all her dreams on him.
Life Goes On after Loss
Both Roya and Bahman move on with their lives and go on to create families on opposite sides of the world. Bahman marries the woman his mother chooses, Shahla, and has twins. After losing her first child suddenly at the age of 1 year, Roya eventually has a second child. She was always afraid to have children since Badri told her that children die.
In the end, both Roya and Bahman live full lives, but their story is incomplete until Roya happens on a store that reminds her of the store in Iran where she first met Bahman. There, she meets Omid, Bahman’s son, and learns that Bahman is at a retirement home nearby.
She is honest with her husband, Walter, about going to visit Bahman. She wants to know why he never showed up at the arranged meeting.
The Reunion in America
When Roya meets Bahman, she thinks that he’s senile because their versions of history do not match. But then she receives a letter from him that explains everything, about his mother’s mental health problem, her tie to Ali, and how she used her mental illness to force him away from Roya. Roya gets to visit Bahman on his last day. She lies in bed with him and holds him, and says goodbye. Afterward, she attends the funeral with Claire, who works at the home. She enjoys learning about Bahman from his children and friends, seeing some of the life that he lived through his funeral.
When Claire drives Roya home, Roya decides to invite her in. She’s 77 and rarely cooks Persian food anymore, but she makes a meal for Claire to enjoy homemade cooking. Walter arrives home, and Kyle (her son) also makes a surprise visit. They have a wonderful evening sharing a meal together.
The Missing Piece
We also get Ali’s perspective in the epilogue. He explains how his role in the Roya and Bahman’s love story. He was going to try to fix things, and he went to get Roya in the square to take her to the correct one where Bahman was waiting for her to elope and get married. Roya was in the middle of a demonstration against the prime minister, and when he found her, she was distraught, trying to find Bahman. Before he could tell her why he came, he was killed. At the same time, his shop was set on fire.
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