Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: The Walk-In Closet by Abdi Nazemian

What is it about heading into a new decade age-wise that makes so many people assess their lives, where they've been, where they are, and where they want to be? I might be the least introspective person on the planet but a new age ending in a zero doesn't ever make me pause to take stock of my life so far. But so many people are in fact spurred on to do just that when they turn thirty or forty or fifty. For  Kara Walker, the main character of Abdi Nazemian's new novel, The Walk-In Closet, her looming thirtieth birthday coupled with the Persian new year celebration called Nowruz, definitely forces her to look at her life and start thinking about where she wants it to go.

Kara lives with Babak (Bobby) Ebadi in a duplex condo his staggeringly wealthy parents bought for him. His family thinks that they are boyfriend and girlfriend but they are simply best friends.  In fact, Kara is Bobby's beard, allowing him to stay deeply closeted with his family. Kara doesn't mind this living situation because she loves Bobby's parents, Leila and Hossein, and she adores the Iranian/Persian culture and traditions in Tehrangeles. But the Ebadis are starting to ramp up the pressure on Bobby and Kara to get married and provide them with grandchildren to spoil. Under this pressure, the fa├žade of a heterosexual relationship that Kara and Bobby have created is starting to crumble and cause Kara stress.

Kara and Bobby have an easygoing understanding with each other. Kara gets to live in the condo and enjoy the designer hand me downs and expensive gifts that Leila passes her way and Bobby gets to pursue his anonymous online hook-ups without anyone the wiser. They have decided, through the many years that they have been friends, not to outright lie to Bobby's family, but they allow everyone to draw the wrong conclusions about their relationship. Kara is still mourning her last relationship and living a celibate life while Bobby has one night (or day) stands with any and all comers. But she's not as happy as she once was and so Kara decides that she needs to learn to be more like Bobby, to learn to be less emotionally invested and to have no strings attached sex with anonymous people. But when she attempts to do this, she meets Kyle, who completely fascinates her. He's clearly not using his real name and she doesn't want to scare him away since this was supposed to be a one time, unemotional, scratch an itch thing but her monogamous little self is hooked. And eventually Kyle will change everything.

Kara and Bobby come off as far younger than they actually are, perhaps because of the sheltering umbrella of the Ebadi's money or perhaps because they are truly immature, the latter a conclusion the random casual sexual encounters seems to support. But even with this, both of them are rather likable characters. They deal with emotions in different ways; Kara obsesses and Bobby avoids. And a lot of this is attributable to their respective upbringings. As Kara faces her own feelings, needs, and desires, and whether she's comfortable continuing to string Bobby's family along about his sexuality, she uncovers a lot of secrets and deep hurts that have been glossed over by a hyper consumerism and the shine of the finer things in life. There are some pretty detailed sex scenes between Kara and Kyle but Bobby's trysts are left in the closet with a wink. The Tehrangeles community is lovingly skewered here and the insight into the Persian diaspora from Iran is well done. Who Kyle is and what happens in the end is clear almost from the moment he appears in the story and the fact of it stretches credibility, tying the end up just a tad too neatly and hurriedly. Over all though, the novel is fast paced and fun, a generally light look at coming to know yourself and to learn acceptance and love.

For more information about Abdi Nazemian and the book, check out his website, his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter, or connect with him on GoodReads. Take a look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Janay from Book Sparks PR and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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