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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Book Review- Lost Without My Daughter by Sayed Mahmoody




There is a movie Not Without My Daughter. It is about an American woman who marries an Iranian doctor staying in the US. All remains well when they are in the US but situation changes drastically when they move to Iran. The husband becomes abusive overnight and the mother and daughter are trapped in an alien culture that has very little liberty for women. I had watched this movie long back. Also picked up the book after watching the movie (but somehow could not finish it). Obviously, I was moved by the movie. Half of the world was. The portrayal of Betty by Sally Field was pretty convincing. The movie was also successful is building a strong negative reputation of not only Iran but also her husband Dr. Mahmoody and Iranian men in general. And Betty was apparently on a pedestal for being an ideal Mom who could (and did) almost literally move mountains (she claims to cross over very difficult mountain terrain) to get her daughter away from an abusive husband. I was in awe of the movie and Betty. That was till I read Lost Without My Daughter by Sayed Mahmoody, the real husband of Betty Mahmoody.
Almost 20 years after the release of the movie which depicts Betty’s ordeals in Iran, her husband Dr. Sayed Bozorg Mahmoody came out with this book to counter Betty’s claims. He describes almost all the situations in a different light. Dr Mahmoody or Moody claims to be a very loving and responsible father who decides to return to his home country to serve the victims of war and revolution. He takes along his wife and daughter, Mahtob. Since they belong to a wealthy Iranian household, they live lavishly even during the times of upheaval in the country. The strict civil code for women makes it difficult for Betty (like it did for all other women in the country at that time) but within the house, Moody reveals that they were treated with warmth and compassion. He also condemns all extremism and inhuman practices forced on the civilians during those times.

Dr Mahmody brings out the flaws in Betty’s claims (in the book and the movie) and counters each point methodically. And he does convince the reader to a large extent. On more than one occasions, I chided myself for naively believing Betty’s side of the story and ignoring the obvious flaws. Though I am still not sure whom to believe, I think Dr. Mahmoody claims (and counter claims) seem more real and sensible to me. Not without my daughter did have an overdose of emotional drama which makes the reader/viewer vulnerable.

But why did Moody wait so long to defend himself. The book and the movie had done a lot of damage not only to him but also to Iran’s reputation. He said he wanted to reach his daughter through this book, but I guess his efforts were too little and too late. If his claims are to be believed, it is saddening to see how a huge lie like Betty’s could be sold with some good emotional packaging. But you have to read both the sides to reach a logical decision for yourself.

Although the author’s analytical writing more or less keeps the interest alive, there are some blatant drawbacks. The editing is very poor and looks like it has not been proofread at all. Author includes a lot of socio-political description of the times. Sometimes it did help in understanding the bigger picture but more often it distracted from the original plot. I am not sure I would have completed this one if I had not watched the movie.


My Rating: 


Day # 4 of #HalfMarathon Blogging Challenge with Blogchatter.

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