The Rose Hotel: A Memoir of Secrets, Loss and Love
by Rahimeh Andalibian
2012 / 328 pages (Kindle)
Rating ___ / memoir
(Published by National Geographic)
Rahimeh Andalibian is a US citizen now, a doctor of psychology practicing systemic psychology and specializing in trauma for over 20 years.
But she had her own story to tell about families and secrets and revolution – also of love and resilience.
There is no particular literary value here – nothing to note except perhaps that the tension builds very nicely and includes a couple or more unexpected twists. Much of this is due to the story itself but there is some literary feel to it because of a very light use of backstory – mostly it’s in chronological order though. The style and structure, the literary elements pretty well fit the subject – it’s a nice memoir of a really terrible time and I think it helped me to understand a bit better what refugees go through.
Unlike immigrants, refugees do not leave their country because they want to – it’s because there is no viable choice – it’s often a life or death situation. There’s been a revolution and the regime the refugees supported is now unwelcome and hunted. Or they leave amidst a civil war. This happened with the US in Southeast Asia, the Shah in Iran, and various dictators in Africa where regimes were overturned and the new powers hunted down the old supporters.
This a memoir is of one Iranian refugee family and it’s simply told, speaking quite clearly for itself. I sense that this is not an uncommon situation among refugees and this family is amazing – perhaps the situation for Andalibian’s family was a bit more severe to start with – but perhaps not.
Rahimeh Andalibian, the author, spent the first few years of her life with her prosperous and highly respected family in Iran under the rule of the Shah. There were her parents, Maman and Baba (Haji), her older brothers Abdollah, Zain and Hadi and the baby brother, Iman. Rahimeh is the next to youngest child. Then along came the revolution in 1979 and the beginning of the reign of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Moosavi Khomeini. Life Under Khomeini –
The real story begins with the rape of an old woman who is placed at their Mashad doorstep. Then there is a murder for which the family’s eldest son is charged, and then start the secrets and the great fears and the overwhelming guilt as well as the need to escape the terror. They finally get to the US but that’s not the end of troubles because that’s only half the book and the tension increases.
So running alongside the fears and secrets and guilt, we see also the deep love and commitment of the family members – each expressed or thwarted in their own way – they are, in the author’s words, “imperfect, brave, resilient and beautiful.” We follow the story up to some time after 2011.
There’s the awareness that you can never go home, you can not just “start over,” – this is about opening wounds and healing and the rebuilding of lives. There are enormous problems for each of the family members when they get to the US – way more than just some bullying at school or job discrimination.