Leila’s Secret ~ Kooshyar Karimi | A Review : When a New Life Means a Certain Death 


It’s almost your typical flaw of a love story you know? Young girl falls into her most innocent idea of love with an older man who only turns out to be married. Of course it gets worse. You don’t really know that from the outset and you wouldn’t really suspect it as a reader until it actually happens. For this particular review, I will not summarise the book in whole… Or at all, perhaps.

I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken so long for me to write this review. I read the book months ago and only now can fully comprehend the material Kooshyar provides us with. This biography is a profoundly moving story that is deeply eye-opening even in this day and age. In some way or another, there will be a point of this story which will relate to you when you least expect it.

The story starts in 1997. A young Leila stumbles into the doctors office pregnant, scared and very traumatised. Leila was raped by the man whom she thought loved her and though as a reader, sifting through the pages, one heartbreaking page by one, it becomes quite clear that she is not only so very young or so very naive, but so undoubtedly blameless. There are many reasons why she’s blameless and I’m beyond prepared to defend this point of argument. It doesn’t take an intellectual to know why either. If you need one reason, consider fundamentalist Iran & the culture in 1997.

Rape is forbidden in Iran as it would and should be anywhere else in the world. In terms of Iran? Unfortunately… It does not mean that a man will be stoned to death for it. As Karimi states, it’s almost impossible to trial a man for rape if your culture strongly suggests that the fault lies most impartly on that of the woman.

As of the above, Leila falls pregnant after being raped. This was the unfortunate result of falling in love with a store owner she regularly passed by on a short journey to the library. She’s cradled by her mother in terms of her up bringing. Leila is limited to things that we in the western world have access to and take for granted.

Leila is closely monitored by her mother and male members of her family especially when she wishes to leave the house. It almost seems criminal for her to do anything I would find normal in my Westernised upbringing. This isn’t to say she’s not allowed outside at all, she is. This is of course only if she is accompanied by a male or her older sister. “Curfews”, as a theme, plays a significant part in this story and if you haven’t read this book just yet, I cannot wait till you see why.  How long does it take for a single mind to fall in so deeply in love it could literally kill you? Some will say minutes, others will say days.

Leila’s story will make you rethink that altogether.

The only single downside of reading this book was not being able to stop myself from naturally  feeling utterly disappointed in Leila. All the while knowing that I had no right to judge her for the actions she made.

Was it truly Leila’s fault for what happened to her? Is she as guilty as the man who raped her? Could one person be more guilty than another for disobeying laws which clearly favour one counterpart? I ask these questions and yet wish to not have a single yes or no answer unless adequate justification is present.  Leila disobeyed laws which she knew had existed for years before her as did the culprit who raped her. Could one person be more guilty than that of the other? Was Leila old enough to be considered as consciously aware of the risks and consequences? These questions are ones that I’ve drawn on so very much during my time of reflection.

Any author who can make an avid reader really question such cultural controversy by first person narrative is, in my opinion, a brilliant writer. Karimi is most honest and true to his book, you could almost feel his expression bleed through the pages.

It’s Dr Karimi who narratively sheds light on Leila’s ordeal from beginning to end. An ordeal that not only she alone experiences. He, a Jewish Doctor, who is not only successful in his practice but also challenged within his married life (His wife, believe it or not, aborted her first child). Dr Karimi constantly pushes through self conflicting demands to abort unwanted pregnancies. His clients are young and at most times, are victims of rape by married men. The countless times Karimi is approached by men who admit their wrongdoing is horrific. His accounts of these men will have you infuriating. How could it not? These are men who have the shameless nerve to disobey their marriage vows for selfish pleasure which ultimately leads to the risk of death to another.

Whether or not you find something genuinely good in these men, there is nothing good in rape.

In all, the book is courageously told from Kooshyar’s heart as pure and as sympathetic as any book could be. He’s done his utmost best to portray the injustice some women are faced with in Iran and he has done this faultlessly. Where he is now and how he deals with the past I could only imagine.

What happens to Leila? I cannot not tell you for this book is one which should not ever be spoilt without reading it for yourself.

4.7/5

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