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by Marsha Mehran is set in the Irish hamlet of
Ballinacroagh, the unlikely new home for
three Iranian sisters and their new Babylon
kitchen of an old pastry shop on Main Mall
becomes Persian oasis, and sensuous wafts of
cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron soon float
through the streets.
A shock to a town that generally
subsists on boiled cabbage and Guinness
served at the local tavern. it is an affront
to the senses of Ballinacroagh’s uncrowned
king, Thomas McGuire. After trying to buy the
old pastry shop for years and failing, Thomas
is enraged to find it occupied–and by
foreigners, no less.
the provincial Irish welcome the
"foreigners"? Will the sisters
triumph? But of course!
About the Author:
Born in Tehran, Iran,
Marsha Mehran escaped the Revolution with her
family. She has since lived in such diverse
places as Buenos Aires, The United States,
Australia and Ireland. Her first novel,
Pomegranate Soup was an international
bestseller, and her second novel,
Rosewater and Soda Bread, continues the
adventures of the three Aminpour sisters. She
lives in New York, where she is busy spinning
- Each chapter
in Pomegranate Soup begins with a
traditional Persian recipe, which is then
incorporated into the story like a
character. Why do you think the author
chose to highlight the food in this
manner? How do you think the recipes
guide the narrative?
- We first meet
the three Aminpour sisters, Marjan, Bahar
and Layla, in the kitchen of the new
Discuss how this setting offers a
glimpse into the differences in their
personalities. If you have siblings, do
you recognize the dynamics between the
- Marjan cooks in accordance
to the Zoroastrian system of gastronomic
balancing, known as sard and garm
(cold and hot foods).
As one of the world’s first
monotheistic religions, Zoroastrianism
introduced the dual ideas of good and
evil, which are now practiced in the
How is this balancing system
similar to eating habits in the West? How
is it different?
has been termed a novel of magical
realism or a fairytale by reviewers.
Is it believable?
Does it need to be believable to
be effective as a novel?
important is the Irish setting and
quintessential Irish characters to the
charm of the story?
Could the novel’s setting be
relocated to Hannibal or another locale? Why or why not?
- Both Marjan
and Bahar were romantically involved with
men who supported the Islamic Revolution. These relationships
led the two women to perform
revolutionary activities, which they
later regretted. Do you feel either
sister has come to terms with her violent
In the classical Greek
myth of Persephone, Demeter, the goddess
of spring, has a daughter named
Persephone who is kidnapped by Hades, god
of the underworld.
What parallels do you see between
this myth and the three sisters’ story?
- The Babylon
Café provides a venue for dreams to
flourish. Discuss how the food and the
sisters’ temperaments influence the
villagers to pursue dreams that may have
lay hidden, even from themselves.
parallels do you find between
Ballinacroagh’s bully, Thomas McGuire,
and Hossein Jaferi in Iran? What are the
differences? Can you think of any other
parallels between the sisters’
experiences in the Irish village and
- Croagh Patrick
looms protectively over the village of
Ballinacroagh. The holy mountain is where
the patron saint of Ireland, Saint
Patrick, reportedly took his Lenten fast,
banishing the evil spirits that had
haunted him his entire life. What roles
do Croagh Patrick and Saint Patrick play
in Bahar’s self-revelation? What do you
think initially sparked her desire to
climb the mountain?
- What would you
like to see happen to the three sisters
after the story ends? Do you think they
have found a home in Ballinacroagh? Do
you think they are ready to heal from the
painful events of their past?
Discussion questions, and
information about the book and the author
were adapted from www.randomhouse.com,
and book reviews found in Booklist and