The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani (377 pgs) 2007
Left destitute when her father dies suddenly, a young girl and her mother in 17th-century Persia struggle to survive without income. With no dowry, the girl has little hope of a marriage that could support them and they are forced to seek refuge with distant relatives. They journey from the rural farm town they’ve known all their lives to the bustling city of Isfahan, home to the Shah and his court.
The girl is awed by the city, its architecture, and its inhabitants. But she is most inthralled by the amazing carpets created by her uncle and others in the Shah’s employ who have elevated it to an art form. She enters a kind of sheltered apprenticeship with her uncle, devouring his teachings and spending her limited free time creating carpets of her own.
But her position is a precarious one, dependent upon her relatives’ continued goodwill. When they pressure her to accept a temporary marriage contract, she reluctantly agrees. Struggling with her conflicting emotions and the secrecy, she finds herself awakening to her own passions and her own power.