Thursday, April 18

Captive in Iran - A Review

Occasionally you may hear a news story about religious persecution around the world. A church being burned, rights for certain religions lost, or people being arrested or killed for their belief. But the news just reports the occurrence. Rarely do they seem to show the whole story of persecution. While the persecution is a terrible thing, there are sometimes glimmers of hope.

Maryam Rostampour and Marzieyeh Amirizadeh are two friends who lived together in Iran. Though they each grew up in an Islamic household, they never believed themselves to be followers of Islam, instead becoming Christians. They knew that rejecting Islam in Iran could be dangerous, yet they willing shared their faith with people who asked. In 2009 they were arrested and eventually made their way to Evin Prison in Tehran, which has a history of torture and executions. In all they spent 259 days in Evin Prison merely because they were seen handing out some Bibles.

Entering a prison with the reputation of Evin would be frightening to anyone, and these two women were naturally fearful. Still, the threat of torture and abuse did not break them. In many ways, their time in the prison strengthened their faith, as they knew their lives were in God’s hand. Instead of rejecting their faith to be freed from the prison, they took the dangerous step of ministering to other inmates. They did not let prison officials or guards cow them into breaking, and they stood firm in their faith, despite the trials they endured.

Stories like these are ones I wish I would hear more often. It seems like the negative stories are ones played over and over again. And though the events in Captive in Iran are not usually good of themselves, they were worked into something good. Reading about two young women resisting an oppressive government gives hope.

The weakest part of the book is in the writing itself. Though Maryam and Marzieyeh now live in the US, English is not their first language. To best share their story, they partnered with John Perry, who had the task of helping to translate their story to help reach a wider audience. While Perry’s hand has surely helped shape the book, I felt that it was still not refined enough. The book suffers a bit from over-description throughout, which caused the pace to slow periodically. For example, the authors mention the presence of lesbian relationships in prison and mention in at various points throughout the book, even when it does not seem important. While it is an interesting thing to note given Iran’s stance on homosexuality, it did not always fit well with the rest of the story.

Throughout the chapters Maryam and Marzieyeh take turns writing from their own perspective, sometimes switching back and forth within a single chapter. While I appreciate getting both perspectives, they blur together in my head. Neither had a distinctive writing voice, though since they each worked with Perry, it may have added similarities to their voice. Aside from their name preceding a section, or the references to each other, I usually could not tell whose point of view I was reading. Perhaps if they alternated chapters, instead of sections within chapters, it would’ve made it easier to orient myself.

Despite the weaknesses in the actual writing, the story itself is still gripping. If religious persecution abroad is of interest to you, this may be a book to pick up and read.

3.5/5 stars

I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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