I.J. Sarfeh - Medical Fiction

Beyond the Third Garden

My latest novel, Beyond the Third Garden, was published this month. Musa Publishing did a fantastic job of editing and providing the haunting, breathtaking cover art. The book as available at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-The-Third-Garden-ebook/dp/B00EZWIRCW/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380215392&sr=1-1&keywords=sarfeh

Here's the blurb:

Iran; November, 1950: Ten year-old Reza can’t remember what happened on that fateful night. Without warning, gruesome images of the event flash through his mind. Now living in a Tehran orphanage, he is obsessed with running away from the hell where bullies and physical punishment rule. In another part of the city, Paree Windom, a middle-aged Iranian woman, lives alone, separated from her English husband. She, too, is tormented by recurring images of a horrific incident that happened years before. Seeking relief from anguish, she falls prey to the allure of alcohol.

By chance, the two meet in a rain-drenched forest at the foothills of the Alborz Mountains. As their turbulent friendship develops, they embark on a journey to search for deliverance from the prison of tormented souls.

Here's the first chapter:

January 7, 1943: Bourton-on-the-Water, England.

Fearing the worst, Paree ran through the pastures and mist-blurred woods, searching for her son. Little John hadn’t slept in his bed— another manifestation of his strange behavior since he returned from North Africa. She burst into the gray barn, where a week before, she had found him lying in the hay, staring at nothing. Maybe he was thinking about life before Tobruk, or maybe he was thinking about death in Tobruk. “Come back to the cottage and I’ll cook you a nice English breakfast,” she had told him, but he kept staring at nothing and muttered, “Just leave me alone, Mother.”

She called out his name, but he didn’t respond. Hearing a rustling sound from above, she climbed a wobbly ladder to the loft and saw a pair of slate eyes glowing in the dimness. The neighbor’s cat hissed at her.

After rushing out of the barn, she ran past the cows and bales of hay and the rusted tractor that hadn’t moved in years. Pausing at the edge of a field near her cottage, she looked up toward the crest but couldn’t see the chestnut tree for the mist. When Little John was much younger, he loved to climb that tree, hiding there until she came looking for him. The mischievous imp would plop chestnuts on her head, and she would shout, “It’s those rascally squirrels again!” He would giggle and shout back, “I was the rascally squirrel, Mummy.” It was his ritual for the start of Saturday mornings, and maybe he was hiding in the tree now, reclaiming his better Saturdays.

Trudging through uncut grass, sidestepping cow dung, Paree hurried up the field until the chestnut tree’s ghostlike silhouette came into view.

She froze.

* * *

November 2, 1950: Karaj, Iran.

Just before dawn, Reza startled awake on cold ground, fearing something terrible had happened. A woman was squatting by his side, stroking his head. “Sleep, little boy, sleep. The bad situation is over.”

He jumped up and stared toward the shack. It seemed eerie in the moon glow as light rays danced on the walls like giant blue moths. Parked in front of the shack was a police car with spinning blue lights on the roof. Three policemen were pulling Mama to the car. As they were about to push her inside, Reza shouted, “Mama! Mama! Don’t let them take you!” She looked at him over her shoulder and smiled even though her face was bloodied, her nose bent, her teeth broken. “You are a wonderful boy, Reza-jan. Don’t ever forget that.” He ran to the policemen and tried to pull Mama away from them, but they shoved him into the dirt and shoved her into the car. One of them bent over him and fired questions about what had happened in the shack. Despite the stinging slaps to his face, Reza couldn’t remember anything. The officer spat at him and left.

Later that morning, Reza found himself at a home for kids without homes, and ten days later, at a home for kids without parents.

Here's the first review, which was penned by the prominent author, Richard Sutton:

I always look forward to I.J. Sarfeh's fiction with its blend of culture, well-conceived science, taut pacing and finely honed, very real characters. This is his first novel that runs outside the medical mystery genre he has written so effectively in. Beyond the Third Garden is an incredibly absorbing tale of redemption and healing. Two souls, locked into emotional isolation as a result of horrific events and loss, find healing through their tentative movements towards friendship. They come from two very different backgrounds. One is an accomplished, educated Iranian woman whose marriage is faltering after losing a son; the other is an uneducated orphan boy from a rural setting outside Tehran who has escaped the cruelty of an orphanage but still carries the burden of his past. The woman has traveled extensively and married outside her traditional culture to an English oil company executive, which puts her at odds with the prevailing culture at a time of great change. The boy has never been more than a few miles from the shack he was born into, but both carry deep, scarring secrets. Through a miracle of coincidence, they find each other along a stretch of mountain highway. Beyond the Third Garden is written in a gently alternating character point of view, which makes it all the more immediate and highly engaging. The two struggle equally to hide the things they must keep hidden, but for their friendship to grow, they must also reveal themselves. Finally, when all is laid bare recalling their most crippling experiences, real trust rises to blossom. I read this novel, set in both Iran and post-war England, in just two sittings. I found myself actually stifling sobs as the momentum built to a conclusion that brings them their freedom from the torment of the past as inner demons are released into the light of day. The book also adds a welcome look into traditional, hospitable Iranian culture and the lilt of spoken Farsi to many readers that would otherwise know little of this language or its people, beyond the political headlines. I applaud the author for the raw honesty, emotional pain and clear understanding of the human condition he has fashioned here into beautifully crafted, memorable passages. This was a genre departure for me, but I'm looking forward to the next work author Sarfeh completes, in which ever genre his stories unfold.

Here's the second review on Amazon, from Dr. Ken Waxman:

I.J. Sarfeh has written a compelling and poignant novel. Set in post World War II Iran, a boy and a woman, strangers, are both lost in desperation from terrible emotional wounds. Their lives in shambles, they are close to oblivion. Sarfeh develops these characters beautifully, and I came to care deeply about them. When chance brings the boy and woman together, they form a relationship that is beautiful and uplifting. The people in this book are fascinating, their story riveting. I enjoyed every page of this book.

Here's the third review:

Beyond the Third Garden is an unforgettable, moving and utterly compelling book. I.J. Sarfeh's characters stay with you long after finishing the story. Paree and Reza's stories are courageous and heart breaking and you feel their losses and triumphs as your own. I highly recommend this book for a book club. It offers many questions for thoughtful discussions.

Three five-star reviews in a row! Thanks, reviewers.

Nine five-star reviews in a row!

Beyond the Third Garden now has nine reviews on Amazon. All rave reviews. All five-star reviews. How good it feels!