Plot: Between the intrigues of the central romance and the stirrings of the anti-Shah uprising, the tension in this book never lets up—until the very end, when the narrative seems to veer off in another direction entirely.
Prose: The writing is as economical and succinct as a film script. The narrative moves along swiftly, and yet it's studded with evocative detail.
Originality: This gripping book is a romance with humor and cultural insights that readers will find original and intriguing.
Character Development: The characters here are well developed and fully formed. Marco in particular feels vivid and real.
Date Submitted: August 28, 2017
A Hundred Veils is a story about an American volunteer teacher in Tehran in pre-revolutionary times. It is not, however, just a series of anecdotes of “colorful characters I met on my travels,” nor is it an overly romanticized view of some impossibly exotic foreign land, nor is it a contrived, unrealistic inside-the-CIA spy novel. This story is unique. It is ostensibly a love story, but it really is more than that. It starts as an entertaining cross-cultural comedy of manners, but the tone gradually shifts as events pull the four young lovers into an unexpected web of intrigue and suspense, and they learn how treacherous are the paths that lead to their hearts’ desires.
This book makes you wonder if, no matter what the ideology, the basic struggle in life everywhere is really just between the young and the old. I’ve never seen a love story that leaves you with so much to think about. I highly recommend this book. If nothing else, you’ll learn a two-word X-rated Iranian expression that will blow your mind.
The first chapter drew me into the story. The author’s depictions of Marco’s initial impressions from the time the plane landed in the Shiraz airport to finding himself on the balcony of the Pahlavi University dormitory captured my attention immediately. This young American teacher has incredible, believable cultural experiences complete with friendship, humor, sadness and ultimately love in a country that started out to be so foreign to him. It does not take long to see and feel the characters, as Rea Keech is a master at character descriptions along with dialogue. Throughout this book, I was mentally transported into the situations and conversations; feeling as an inside observer. A Hundred Veils is a real page-turner.
A Hundred Veils was awarded Best Literary/Mainstream novel 2017 by the Maryland Writers' Association.
Melissa Driscoll Krol Contact Reporter, Capital-Gazette newspaper
More than 50 residents attended the Crofton Community Libraryʼs “Iranian Cultural Immersion Night Through Literature, Poetry and Music” on Aug. 7, 2017.
Attendees heard Author Rea Keech read passages of his fictional novel “A Hundred Veils” inspired by his years in the Peace Corps teaching English at the University of Tehran from 1967 to 1969.
Before each chapter was read, Mostafa Rahbar, Keechʼs Iranian roommate in the 60ʼs, read Farsi poetry. The men have remained friends for over 50 years and Rahbar now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.
In addition, after Keech read each book passage, Darab Shabahang played the three stringed setar while Mahvash Vatankhah sang traditional Iranian songs, many of which were poetry set to music. Shabahang and Vatankhah are members of the musical group Persian Arts & Culture Communities (PACC).
“A Hundred Veils” is a love story set in Iran during the 1960ʼs and includes the cultural and political happenings of the time.
Keechʼs first reading was from the “Pajama Party” chapter and includes Marco, the hero, meeting Farhad. The two become best friends, not unlike Keech and Rahbarʼs friendship. The chapter also introduces much of the culture and customs of Iran.
Keechʼs second reading was “The Coronation of the King of Kings, Light of the Aryans.” It is based on the Shahʼs coronation that Keech witnessed while in Iran. The Shah had delayed coronation for years until he felt totally assured of his absolute power.
“The [second] reading introduced the theme of submerged resentment against the Shah,” said Keech. Keech heard many different concealed opinions from his 140 students while in private discussions with them and associating with them outside the classroom.
“There were members of the religious party, nationalists and communists but it was all very suppressed,” said Keech. “The novel tries to show hints that trouble was growing, but it was very peaceful then. Just undercurrents of unrest.”
It was Keechʼs third reading from the chapter “Snow” that cemented the novel as a love story. Marco and the girl he loves, Mastaneh, are finally alone during a snowstorm and are able to fully share their love and affection for one another.
Keechʼs 50-year-old memories are so clear he credits it to the joy he felt living in Iran. “Living in Tehran for those two years were some of the best years of my life,” Keech said. “Mostafa says the same thing.”
“I was 22 years-old and had never been out of the United States. The culture was very different. However, I felt like I could have been dropped in the middle of any Iranian village and people would beg me to stay in their homes for as long as I wanted.”
Keech credits his successful immersion into Iranian culture to his friends.
“I couldn’t have lasted those two years without all my Iranian friends helping me,” Keech said. “I would not have understood culturally what was going on. Iranians believe it is a tragedy to be alone. They come visit you. [My] friends helped me understand the friendliness and inclusiveness of Iranian culture. Friendship and companionship got me through.”
The Iranian people are not our enemy, Keech said. “Iranian people still love Americans,” he said. “The Iranian people are not the Iranian government.”
After leaving Iran, Keech taught in Japan and Greece before returning to the United States and receiving his PhD in Comparative Literature.
From 1978 to 2013, Keech taught English at Anne Arundel Community College.
“Once I retired I got back to writing,” said Keech. “I had a lot of notes and my mother told me ‘you should write those stories down.”
It only took Keech a year and a half to write “A Hundred Veils.”
“A Hundred Veils” was recently awarded Best Literary/Mainstream Novel of 2017 by the Maryland Writers’ Association. It is available on Amazon.com in hardcover, paperback and Ebook versions.
Melissa Driscoll Krol can be reached at email@example.com and on Facebook at Around Crofton.