Reviews

THE LAST ILLUSION

[please see EVENTS/NEWS section of website for most recent additions]

Santa Fe New Mexican, Review

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/pasatiempo/books/subtexts/subtexts-bird-boy-the-last-illusion-by-porochista-khakpour/article_21c7a6da-0e15-11e4-8b2b-001a4bcf6878.html

 

San Francisco Chronicle, Review

http://www.sfgate.com/books/article/The-Last-Illusion-by-Porochista-Khakpour-5582861.php

 

Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

http://www.shelf-awareness.com/readers-issue.html?issue=302#m5396

 

“The Last Illusion Inventively Captures a Feral Boy’s Life in NY,” Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-ca-jc-porochista-khakpour-20140525-story.html

photo-25

 

“In The Last Illusion, Khakpour Imagines an Enchanting Coming of Age Story,” Bustle

http://www.bustle.com/articles/24923-in-the-last-illusion-porochista-khakpour-imagines-an-enchanting-coming-of-age-story

 

“The Morning After” by Samuel Thrope, Marginalia Review

http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/archives/5832

 

Litkicks review by Levi Asher

http://www.litkicks.com/LastIllusion#.U3IyT8ZKdSV

 

“Porochista Khakpour Rides High On the Wings of Allegory,” by Malcolm Forbes, The National 

http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/books/porochista-khakpour-flies-high-on-the-wings-of-allegory

 

Bookshelf column by Sam Sacks, The Walls Street Journal

http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10001424052702303701304579547761689093426-lMyQjAxMTA0MDAwOTEwNDkyWj?tesla=y&mg=id-wsj

 

“An audaciously ambitious novel that teeters along a tightrope but never falls off.

Following her well-received debut (Sons and Other Flammable Objects, 2007), this Iranian-American novelist returns with what on the surface is a coming-of-age story about a boy who was raised as a bird, based on a myth from the Persian Book of Kings (which finds its way into the story within this story) about an Icarus who becomes a great warrior and hero. The protagonist of this novel is neither. His name is Zal (it rhymes with “fall,” which is what happens to those who cannot fly), and he was born in Iran, very pale and blond in a country of darker skins, to a mother who considered him a mistake and a “White Demon.” His birth sparked his “mother’s disintegration into a crazy bird lady,” and she raised him in a menagerie, as a bird. The tone then shifts, or slides, from once-upon-a-time fable into something closer to American realism, as the setting shifts to New York City around the turn of the millennium. Zal has been adopted by a behavioral analyst who wants to help him develop the human side of his adolescent personality and guide him into adulthood. Zal learns to “keep the bird in him, any bird in him, so deep within himself that it resurfaced only rarely”—though he does retain an appetite for insects and develops a crush on a particularly comely canary (“tiny but still voluptuous, round in all the right places”). In a coincidence that strains credulity, he happens to meet an artist who works with dead birds, who becomes his first love and is something of a strange bird herself. She suffers from anorexia, panic attacks and premonitions, the last of which proves crucial and tragic. And he encounters an illusionist who sparks the novel’s title, planning to make New York disappear: “Not New York, exactly, but the New Yorkness of New York.”

Plot summary fails to convey the spirit of this creative flight of fancy; farce meets disaster in a novel that illuminates what it means to be human, normal and in love.”

— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

 

Exactly once upon a time in a small village in northern Iran, a child of the wrong color was born.’ So begins this latest novel from Khakpour (Sons and Other Flammable Objects), which centers on Zal, whose mother cages him with her menagerie of birds until he is ten years old. Years after being rescued, Zal lives with his adopted father in New York City and tries to shape something of a normal life. But Zal is still obsessed with one thing—flight. He becomes fixated on illusionist Bran Silber, who claims he will fly at his forthcoming show. Enter Asiya McDonald, an artist from a grotesque Upper East Side family with her own tragic secrets and ominous premonitions, whom Zal comes to love in his own way, “normal” or not. Just as life is becoming clear to Zal, his world is threatened, and the city is blindsided by 9/11. VERDICT: Khakpour’s prose is fluid and visceral, while the narrative plays smoke and mirrors with reality and perspective. If some bloviating on unimportant details is overlooked, this novel is a literary gem full of sadness, guts, and wonder. For any adult who enjoys good fiction.”

— Library Journal

 

“Lauded American Iranian critic and novelist Khakpour writes another gripping tale that mixes myth and history. Based on Persian folklore, The Last Illusion is the story of a feral albino boy raised in Iran until age 10 by a deranged mother who keeps him in a cage and treats him like a bird. The boy, Zal, is discovered by his grown sister and passed off to a famous American child analyst, who adopts him, takes him to New York City, and sets out to help him integrate into society. Zal takes on the streets of New York, with its myriad characters, the same way a bird might cock its head at the strangeness of human behavior, but as he grows, he longs to be normal and must fight against his instincts to be “bird.” Khakpour’s writing walks a line between mythical and realistic, somehow melding the two seamlessly and keeping reality in sharp focus; the reader aches for Zal, who fumbles through life as neither completely bird nor completely human.”

— Heather Paulson, Booklist, April 2014

 

“A boy raised among birds is rescued and brought to pre-September 11 New York in Porochista Khakpour’s savagely funny, Persian folktale-inspired The Last Illusion, in which coming-of-age and first love are complicated by dreams of flight and cravings for chocolate-covered crickets”

Vogue, April 2014

 

“Porochista Khakpour gives us a stunning, darkly humorous, and at some points totally heartbreaking novel abut an Iranian boy who thinks he’s a bird after years of torture; it’s sure to stick around in your brain long after you’ve closed it.”

Flavorwire

 

“Blazingly original.”

—The Millions

 

SONS AND OTHER FLAMMABLE OBJECTS

“All of Khakpour’s strengths are on display here: punchy conversation, vivid detail, sharp humor. . .Khakpour brings her characters vividly to life; their flaws and feints at intimacy feel poignantly real, and their journeys generate real suspense. . .they are also imbued with a genuine humanity that wins our affection.”
The Sunday New York Times Book Review

“Khakpour explores ethnicity, nationalism, and post-9/11 fear—well-worn themes that are far less compelling than the exuberant originality of her style. The characters burst from the page in fiery exchanges, while their chaotic inner lives are conveyed with witty precision. . . Khakpour’s comic sense of familial tensions—particularly father-son enmity—is infectious.”
—The New Yorker

“Khakpour’s tale is lyrical and wise and funny, in a way that sometimes reminded me of the terrific British novelist Zadie Smith.”
—Kurt Andersen, Studio 360 (NPR)

“Khakpour expertly captures the culture clash between generations of immigrant families as well as the questions about identity and home that are common themes in immigrant novels. She brings a fresh perspective and style to the genre, exploring themes of escape and being lost and found.”
The Chicago Tribune

“Poignant and amusing . . . shows ways that odd pieces of the past govern our present lives more than we would like.”
The San Francisco Chronicle

“Porochista Khakpour’s debut novel signals the arrival of a dazzling stylist. Sons and Other Flammable Objects trumps fashionable memoirs of Iran with a jazzy fictional narrative.”
The Daily Star

“Khakpour’s frequently hilarious debut novel focuses on a disintegrating Iranian family in post–September 11 America, but dodges the pitfalls that setup could entail. Her characters are victims not of xenophobia or ignorance but of their own weaknesses, and she deftly avoids disaster-bred pathos or epiphanies. . Full-tilt and engrossing.”
TimeOut Chicago

“Entirely impressive . . it also gallops over fresh ground in its examination of personal and political trauma in the ‘age of terrorism.’ . . a smart and sensitive novel.”
Radar magazine

“Like Philip Roth, except from Tehran not Newark!”
Paper magazine, October Book of the Month

“Khakpour builds her luminously intelligent debut around the travails of an Iranian-American family caught in the feverish and paranoid currents immediately after 9/11. . . . Khakpour is an elegant writer, and she imparts a perfect sense of the ironies of being Persian in America.”
Publishers Weekly

“Sometimes comic and sometimes poignant . . . Khakpour displays a barbed, appealing sensibility and a trenchant wit.”
Kirkus Reviews

“While there is no shortage of fiction that deals with the subjects of racial and cultural identity, Khakpour’s first novel refuses to oversimplify these issues fro the sake of a smoother narrative. An incredibly complex book, it acknowledges that navigating the demands of multiple cultures is anything but a tidy process.”
Library Journal

“Sons and Other Flammable Objects is the first great Iranian-American novel, breathless and overwhelmingly good.”
—parsarts.com

“Reading [Khakpour’s] work is like going joyriding down a rocky mountainside. She splits words open and looks for their multiplicity of meanings. She translates words and customs from the Farsi with both eerie and hilarious effects. It’s thrilling and demanding work, but Khakpour makes it all worth it”
Sycamore Review

“Ultimately, Sons does something entirely new in the Iranian literary landscape: it is a sophisticated treatment of the life and problems of one Iranian immigrant family which manages to also be universal. Khakpour is a master of showing all the nuances of immigrant life, and she is especially talented at depicting the sort of nameless longing for a homeland that second-generation Iranians experience. The solution, Khakpour knows, will not be found in the pomegranate trees, santur music, and the otherwise exoticized Iran of their (our) forbears, an Iran that is more a wispy dream than reality. Rather, the answer lies in coming to grips with the need to forge new identities and homelands, while making peace with Iranian roots.”
MELUS journal

“Khakpour’s biting humor, delightfully knowing asides, and careful digging into the interior worlds of two equally stubborn men give the novel an intelligence and a crisp charm that is welcome and quite unexpected in such weighty matters. . . a brilliant, witty, knowing tale.”
The Quarterly Conversation

“A debut that gave me a good shaking by the lapels and left me with a very happy smirk on my face. You guys better start reading her now, she’s going to lead the pack for a while.”
—Litpark.com