Praise for Bone Worship
“Wildly original, Bone Worship is a real find. A superbly cranky American daughter and her impossible, mysterious Iranian father are the fabulous characters populating this wonderful novel about husband-hunting and self-hunting. It is a book at once comic and serious, unpredictable at every turn, with a cross-cultural family drama that cracks through old notions.”
- Joan Silber
Author of Ideas of Heaven
“In a voice at once acerbic and lyrical, Elizabeth Eslami deftly navigates the choppy waters of a cross-cultural father-daughter relationship bowing beneath the strain of post-grad ennui. From the streets of Tehran to the backroads of Arrowhead, Georgia, Bone Worship gnaws and sings.”
- Meagan Brothers
Author of Debbie Harry Sings in French
“Movingly and with genuine warmth, Elizabeth Eslami explores those fragile in-between times of our lives, those tough transitions from don’t-know-where-we-are to can’t-believe-where-I-arrived. She does so with compassion and honesty and with a wry yet gentle humor that had me laughing out loud. Bone Worship is a treasure, and Elizabeth Eslami is a writer to keep your eyes on.”
- David Haynes
Author of The Full Matilda
“In this auspicious debut, Elizabeth Eslami explores with uncommon wit and depth and sensitivity the vexed questions of love and duty, the powerful tensions between debts owed to history and tradition and the desire for growth and freedom. BONE WORSHIP’s Jasmine is an unforgettable character and Elizabeth Eslami is a writer to watch.”
- Janet Peery
Author of What The Thunder Said
“Compelling, authentic, and immensely satisfying. Bone Worship is full of wonderfully drawn characters, especially Jasmine’s awkward, gruff father. Recommended for readers who enjoy immigrant family dramas, such as Monica Ali’s Brick Lane and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.” – Library Journal
“A realistic and heartfelt depiction of a young woman at a crossroads wondering “What’s next?” Eslami’s debut deftly limns a young woman’s exploration of her roots, her attempts to understand her father, and how, to her own surprise, she finds a way to navigate both the expectations of her parents and her own burgeoning desires.” –Booklist
“Elizabeth Eslami’s debut novel is a culture clash from the get-go, but it’s a beautifully written clash filled with the most familiar kinds of yearning, both familial and cultural. Jasmine is the prickly college dropout daughter of an Iranian father and an American mother. She is uncertain about what she wants, or if indeed she wants anything at all, but her father has plans for her new path—a hastegar, or an arranged marriage. Jasmine is horrified, and as father and daughter begin their wary but determined dance around each other, she wonders exactly who her father is, where his strange ways came from, how it is that people ever come together in the first place. Cultural confusion becomes less of an issue than the desperate need for connection, and the earnest ways in which Jasmine and her parents go about trying to simply see each other are equal parts heartbreak and revelation.” – The Inkslinger
“The title of Elizabeth Eslami’s debut novel comes from a ritual that elephants perform. When an elephant dies, its family members cover the body with brush and soil, revisiting the bones for years, caressing them with their trunks. A haunting symbol of remembrance, bone worship becomes the organizing principle of Eslami’s investigation of familial and cultural memory.
When Jasmine Fahroodhi fails out of the University of Chicago in her final semester, she returns home to her parents in Arrowhead, Ga. Her American mother, Margaret, and Iranian father, Yusef, offer an uncomfortable homecoming by announcing their intention of arranging a marriage for her. With the strident bedside manner he perfected as a radiologist delivering bad news, Yusef works to locate potential husbands while Margaret uses the disarmingly calm demeanor she developed as an emergency dispatcher to reassure Jasmine that the hastegar – the arranged marriage – is in her best interests.
Yusef’s frenzied attempts to recruit husbands through newspaper advertisements and Internet postings create a comical “groom soup’’: Mohammed, who protests that Jasmine looks nothing like her online photograph; Ali, a moneyed sloth, who declares “he would never, under any circumstances, work a day in his life” ; John, who after three dates declares “I don’t believe in buying untested merchandise’’; Omar, who chooses a pure Iranian wife over Jasmine; Alan, who brings along his mother and Greek baklava on their first date; and Gabe, a convicted shoplifter who after puzzling over the Fahroodhis’ ethnicities declares his preference for “zebra’’ over “mixed’’ as a description of multicultural families.
With her parents distracted by the husband hunt, Jasmine uses the months following her fall from academic grace to study her father’s Iranian heritage and family, understand her failed collegiate career and confused ambitions, and find a job in the narrow-minded and economically starved town of Arrowhead. She settles on a janitorial position at a nearby zoo, leaving her plenty of energy during and after work to uncover and revere her father’s history.
These reverences and the sometimes unrelated mythologies they provoke become the most compelling geography of the novel, taking Jasmine far from Arrowhead to: the pistachio trees and mud floors of her father’s childhood in Tehran; the icy tundra of the North, where Eskimos lure wolves with bloody caribou bones; the bustling streets of Delhi, where a snake handler and his sons sleep with cobras; and the Yucatan Peninsula, where jaguars live high in the mountain jungles. These beautiful waking dreams of life abroad consume Jasmine as she labors to learn the past her father refuses to share with his American family.” – The Boston Globe