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Book Review: Anahita’s Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayres

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As a nomadic teenage girl in early 20th-century Iran, Anahita loves riddles. She’s also a little too independent and innovative for her time and culture, causing tribal dissent. One day Anahita’s father tells her about the Khan, whose three wives have died under mysterious circumstances. Anahita is horrified and has absolutely no interest in marrying this man, but the Khan is pressuring her father.

In Anahita’s Woven Riddle, she manages to convince her father and the mullah of the tribe to permit a contest where she will weave a riddle into her wedding carpet. The man to guess the riddle will have her as his bride. This causes more trouble within the tribe, as well as jealousy. Why does Anahita get to choose her husband? Why is she so willful?

The angry and overbearing Khan is determined to wed Anahita and threatens the tribe with one thing after another, even going so far as to block the water supply they desperately need. Anahita’s contest moves ahead anyway, and the suitors start bidding for her hand. There are three interesting men in particular vying for Anahita – a schoolteacher, a shepherd, and a prince.

Here is an incredibly beautiful story rich with Persian culture. The descriptions of Anahita’s everyday life are detailed and colorful. You can feel yourself on those mountains and hillsides, view the carpet she is weaving, smell the sheep and feel the wind. I’m fascinated by the art of weaving, and loved the descriptions of her travels with a caravan into the markets and picking out dyes for the tribe’s dye master.

This is a completely engrossing, different and fantastic tale, recommended for grade eight and up. It is also highly recommended for anyone who is interested in learning about the history and culture of another land – and for anyone who just loves a good story.

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