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Wednesday, January 30th, 2002


Searching for Hassan: An American Family's Journey Home to Iran

by Terence Ward

An American's Iran

A review by Adrienne Miller

Who had a childhood like this? Other than Nabokov, that is, who wrote that the Russia of his youth was an enchanted Xanadu (Coleridge's Xanadu, mind you, not Newton-John's), a land to be gotten back to. Terence Ward's Iran, where he grew up in the '60s in a life of "tropical nobility," was a lush, splendid place made up of "teahouses under the stars, surrounded by honeycomb walls," "silkworms in mulberry groves," "treasure-filled bazaars." After having spent the better part of a decade in Iran, Ward's family splits (boarding-school issue with his older brother, long story), leaving behind their beloved country, and leaving, above and beyond all else, their beloved Hassan. The mysterious, magical, confounding Hassan was their chef, care-taker, magician, storyteller, shaman, wart-curer, teacher — and a profound influence on the lives of the three young Ward boys. Back in the United States (the good-byes are truly moving), Terence's mother writes to Hassan and his wife Fatimeh. She waits to hear back. And waits. Word finally arrives, but the word isn't good: A friend tells her that Hassan and Fatimeh have left, disappeared without a word. In 1998, despite the near-impossibility of the visa situation, Ward, his mother and brothers return to the land in and of their dreams, hoping to find Hassan. This is a wonderfully tactile, rich book, perhaps sentimental to a fault, but written from the right place (the heart), and with the right kind of search in mind (the search for grace).

Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.

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