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The Blue Mosaic Vase
by Christie Shary

Category: Mainstream/Historical Fiction EPIC eBook Award Winner
Description: Through the sympathetic eyes of an impoverished orphan boy named Mohammad, and in the tradition of Like Water for Chocolate and The Joy Luck Club, The Blue Mosaic Vase explores the role of women bound by thousands of years of tradition in a land where sons are prized. Left with only the beautiful blue mosaic vase, a gift he once gave his mother, Mohammad begins his quest for identity, love and belonging. And just as the fragile and intricate pieces of the vase fit together, so Mohammad's "coming of age" intertwines with the lives of these women, set against the ancient rhythms of Tehran's bazaar, the desolate mud-brick villages of turn-of-the-century Persia, the impact of Islam upon their lives. Mohammad first explores his world in the footsteps of his mother, Pargol, victim of the bazaar's harshness and disease; next through his brother's child bride, Feredeh, bound by ancient religious tradition; and by the suffering of the harlot, Leila, shackled by hunger into a life that has few options. He experiences life within the dark, liquid eyes of his first love, Sherine, forced by the solemn promise of her father to marry another; through his wife, the beautiful Amira, driven by gold and lust for one she cannot have; and from the pain of the little servant girl, Batool, imprisoned by her society and left with only one choice--to buy her disgrace in the murky waters of the jewb. Although disillusioned by the unfairness and cruelty that reign in his world, Mohammad is determined not to give up. His journey finally leads him to the widowed village weaver, Najmeh, who brings real meaning to his life. Filled with love and compassion, yet free and unbound as the shifting desert sands that surround her village, she answers only to herself. But will Mohammad find the strength to break the bonds that bind him? He knows he must.
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, 2001 SynergEbooks
eBookwise Release Date: May 2003


8 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [374 KB]
Words: 88403
Reading time: 252-353 min.

"Christie writes from first-hand knowledge of the culture of Iran and it shows. This is a story of love and betrayal, of grinding poverty and thwarted success and of triumph over adversity. The book is well written and engaging. The characters are fascinating and illuminating. If the reader has any interest at all about life in the Muslim world, this book will provide a very interesting perspective."

~ L. Collins, Author

Chapter 1

Tehran, Iran, 1909

Although it was early morning, the air was already hot. A heavy mist rose from the murky waters of the jewb, a large stone ditch that ran alongside the dirt road, one of the few sources of water for the southern part of the city.

A woman dressed in a black chador twisted through the maze of dusty streets that comprised the ancient bazaar. Only her eyes, the same color as her body-length garment, showed through the small opening below her forehead. She carried a swathed bundle in her arms, clutched it to her bosom.

On a slight rise, she paused, watched a drowned cat float by in the jewb's waters. She forced herself to turn away, grabbed her bundle more tightly. She hurried on, the only sounds the plop of her faded embroidered shoes upon the ground, the jingle of the two rials in her pocket.

Hardly enough to feed herself, let alone a child. She looked into the water again, hesitated. Why did he have to die? A woman needed a man to survive.

The aroma of sizzling kabob over a vendor's charcoal sharpened her hunger. She inhaled, hoping the smell of the broiling lamb cubes would fill her empty belly. Instead, her insides twisted with pain. She turned away from the vendor, dressed in baggy plaid pants, a turban around his head. She tried to concentrate on the tall turquoise minaret in the distance, the muezzin's call for morning prayers echoing from its tower and throughout the city.

A bearded man led a donkey laden with banging copperware around her. The string of bright blue clay beads which dangled from the beast's bridle to ward off the 'evil eye' caught her attention. She squeezed the bundle in her arms. The baby stirred, started to whine. Soon the whimpering turned to a wail.

"Oh my little one." The woman looked down into the baby's dark eyes, traced her hand over his smooth cheeks. "Your eyes, they are so much like your father's. Do not cry, please do not cry, my little Mohammad. Your Mammon will take care of you."

But the baby did not stop crying, so she paused in a wide doorjamb and sat down on the cracked step. Parting her garment, she took the infant to her breast. But her milk was gone. It had been for quite some time.

She knew she had no more choices. She must go to the home of her eldest son, Jamal, a shopkeeper, husband of two, father of seven. But he had too many mouths to feed. She felt the suckling of her hungry baby, his lips tugging uselessly at her nipple.

"You will survive. You will." She pulled him from her breast and let the chador once more close around her, covering her body like a cocoon. The baby screamed, but she tucked him firmly to her bosom and hurried through the twisting, arch-covered streets to the crumbling mud-brick hovel of her son.

* * * *

Pargol knocked at Jamal's door. No one answered. She glanced at the sky, checked the sun's position. It was much too early for him to be at his tobacco stall in the bazaar. She knocked again, this time harder. Placing her ear to the door, she heard the chatter of children, the clinking of pots over an iron grate.

The old wooden door creaked open. A woman with dark eyes peered out, her body also clothed in a black veil. She opened the door wider and several sunbeams danced across the earthen floor, temporarily filling the room with light. The woman lowered her eyes, turned and called for her husband.

* * * *

Jamal came to the door, a cup of dark chai cradled between his fingers. The rich aroma of the tea made Pargol want to grab it from his hands, warm her empty stomach. Already she could taste its bitterness, made sweet with sugar cubes.

But her son did not offer the cup to her. "Mammon june," he said. "Salam, halle shoma chetore?"

"I am not so fine this day," she said. "I have many troubles on my shoulders."

"As I do." He motioned for her to enter.

"Your brother, he is hungry." Pargol slid the veil from her head and stepped inside. Her son closed the door behind her. She looked into his eyes, at his unshaven face. It was going to be difficult. But she had to do it, if only for her little one. She looked at the baby in her arms, now asleep. "I said, your brother is in need of food and milk. He is suffering from the dysentery."

Jamal ignored her plea, shooed several of his children away.

Shy of the new arrivals, they scattered to hide behind the long skirts of their mothers, bent over the wood-burning stove next to the wall. Jamal's wives did not look up from their cooking to greet Pargol. They knew why she was there. Jamal's face parted into a forced smile, which showed the large space between his two front teeth. He too, knew. His eyes traced the small room, searched for a place to put his tiny brother, another responsibility in his already crushing list.

He sighed, motioned with his head to the far corner where a stained straw mattress lay. Pargol went to the doshak, dropped down on the mat with her infant. How would they ever survive here?

The darkness of the room closed in around her. She felt she must run before its heaviness suffocated her. But where? Another man would never take a 'used woman.' She was as good as dead. She looked into her baby's eyes, brought him to her breast, and squeezed him tightly. She must survive until he was grown. She must.

She looked across the room. The light of a lone oil lamp beckoned her, gave her momentary strength. A smile crossed her tired face as she gently rocked the child in her arms.

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