book reviews on books I've read
This memoir by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer relates the harrowing tale of Americans Betty and Mahtob, her six-year-old daughter, who were imprisoned in Iran by Betty’s husband, “Moody”and eventually were smuggled to freedom in Turkey. Betty met Moody in America, while a patient in an osteopathic hospital where Moody was practicing osteopathic medicine. Betty and Moody married after he finished his training at the hospital in Michigan. She was married and divorced before and living with her two sons. Early in their marriage, Moody proved a model father and husband, and he even got his green card, expressing a desire for American citizenship. The couple eventually settled in Michigan not far from where Betty’s parents lived and soon had a child of their own. Life changed drastically, however, after the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Moody’s relatives visited for an extended stay, and he became very domineering. Although Betty secretly wanted to file for divorce when Moody wanted them to visit Iran, her lawyer urged caution because Moody would be granted visitation rights. Once he had Mahtob in Iran, it is doubtful he would ever let her leave.
Betty reluctantly agreed to a two-week vacation to Iran so that Mahtob could meet Moody’s family. The “vacation” turned into a permanent stay when they reached Iran, however, as Betty was subject to her husband’s will under Iranian law. Betty tried to leave via the Swiss embassy, but she learned that once she married an Iranian, she became an Iranian citizen under Iranian law. Moody, unable to find work until the government processed his license, lived off the largess of his family until he decided to practice medicine without a license. He locked Betty up and instructed his relatives to let him know if Betty tried to escape. Mahtob was sent to school against her will to learn how to become a model Iranian citizen. Moody became very abusive and probably would have killed Betty had she not escaped. He also denied her access to Mahtob. Betty secretly vowed to win escape, but meanwhile acted as if she was assimilating into the culture to win Mahtob back. It wasn’t until two years later that she was able to escape with her daughter in tow due to help from some friends she had made in Iran.
The book offers an insightful view into the issue of women’s rights under Iranian law, where women are considered the chattel of their husbands. It also offers a dramatic tale of what it’s like to be smuggled across a mountainous terrain during the winter by foreigners. It’s no wonder that the book was made into a movie. It reads like a thriller, and even though I knew it had a happy ending, it was a hard read to put down. I thoroughly recommend this book to the nonfiction reader.