The Stationery Shop
By Marjan Kamali
Roya, a dreamy, idealistic teenager living amid the political upheaval of 1953 Tehran, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood stationery shop, stocked with books and pens and bottles of jewel-colored ink.
Then Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry—and she loses her heart at once. Their romance blossoms, and the little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.
A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square when violence erupts—a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she moves on—to college in California, to another man, to a life in New England—until, more than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did you leave? Where did you go? How is it that you were able to forget me?
- Did you enjoy this book? Rate it out of 5.
- The first two chapters show us very different stages in Roya’s life. Discuss the
similarities and differences between her life as a married woman in New
England and her life as a teenager living in Tehran.
- How are Bahman and Walter different? How are they similar? What do you
think Roya was looking for in each of them? How do her expectations for a
relationship change throughout the story?
- Consider Bahman’s mother and her expectations for her son.
- Roya and Zari have very different personalities and ways of looking at life,
and the two sisters often argue and clash. But there is a bond between them
that is unbreakable. Have you experienced that simultaneous closeness and
clashing with siblings in your life? What do you think it is about the sibling
relationship in general and Roya and Zari’s sisterhood in particular that lends
itself to such contradictions?
- In the 1950s, women in Tehran weren’t allowed the freedoms, though still
limited, that women in America were. How does Roya’s family challenge those
social expectations? How does that inform Roya’s life as grown woman?
- In chapter 14, the readers learn about the history between Mr. Fakhri and
Bahman’s mother. After reading this, why do you think Badri treated Roya so
- In chapter 18, Bahman reveals the struggles of living with a mentally ill mother
in Tehran. Discuss mental illness and its stigma as a group. How was mental
illness viewed throughout time, and how does the treatment of the mentally ill
vary across cultures?
- The Stationery Shop is a beautifully told love story at it’s core. What did you
think of the romance component, do you typically like romance as a genre?
- *Spoiler Alert* Roya ends up with Walter at the end of the book, how do you
think her life would have been different had her and Bahman met in the square
on that fateful day?