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The Bird and The Fish: Memoir of a Temporary Marriage
Afshin, a captivating Iranian graduate student, rents a room in Miriam Valmont’s home. Landlady and tenant share an immediate and fast-growing attraction, despite the fact that Miriam is twice Afshin’s age. When Afshin proposes a temporary Islamic marriage, Miriam readily agrees, driven by desire and curiosity. What shocks her, though, is the role Afshin invites her to play at the end of the marriage so that he, as a Muslim, can continue to express affection. The Bird and the Fish is the story of two people with radically different lives who find a way to honor a passionate love.

Couldn't put it down!

By Emily Carolyn Chaffin

I found this true story of an unlikely romance between a young Iranian man and an older American woman captivating. It made me think about the kinds of assumptions we make about people that can create barriers to connection. The two people at the center of this story inspired me with their capacity to avoid that trap, and instead found themselves in love. This book contains a glimpse of the kind of world where people find more in common with each other than different.


Utterly exceeded my expectations; fabulous read


The title of this book is a striking image appropriate to its two protagonists. Imagine a swimming fish looking up to see a bird, and a bird flying low over water looking down to see a fish. Unable to join each other for more than a brief interval, they must live most of their lives in mutually incompatible mediums. And yet, they make a concerted effort to see each other quite clearly.

This book is a page-turner--I felt gripped by the story and wanted to know what would happen next--but I could not read it quickly. I regularly felt a need to step back and mull. In the end, the narrative held together under constant scrutiny, despite its startling premise which I sometimes wanted to reject, in part because of its unusual delving into the murky waters of the human need for connection and affiliation.

The story is not all about grand themes; it works for me on many levels, exploring differences of nationality, religion, culture, political system, gender, parenting, and aging. In particular, it challenges the concept of marriage and singleness in American society. And it deals openly with an aspect of life that we mostly try to ignore--the fleeting temporariness of everything, including life itself. The surprising thing is that there could be any useful communication at all between our two protagonists, yet their imperfect but determined relationship rang true repeatedly despite all my almost-objections. I was left understanding that labels for relationships, intimate or otherwise, may be too simplistic and limiting, and that there can be value in pushing beyond the simplicities of labels to experience the full richness of life. It is also a hopeful message, because both protagonists were able to overcome the stereotypical expectations placed upon them while remaining within the plausible and believable. It is a delicate balancing act that I can only admire.

Arlene S. Bice

Exceptional memoir of love connecting East and West

By Arlene S. Bice

There are so many married partners out there that suddenly wake up one morning, without warning, to find they are widows or widowers. It’s shocking to become numb for a year, or two, or three. Your head is in the clouds and your heart is just hanging out of your chest, for everyone to see. It’s painful.
Yet Miriam Valmont agreed, signed up, to do just that. She would marry a man that she grew to deeply love, knowing against all hope, that the marriage would be dead in six months.
Bravely, and with avid interest, she learned another culture, alien to her own. This all-American woman loved an Iranian student 25 years her junior. Her story takes you on an adventure, sparing no details of the emotional roller coaster ride, even learning his language.
They created a bridge between East and West. She immersed herself to see life and Iranian customs through his eyes, willing herself to understand, hoping to influence him with American ways. Reading her story you will witness an extraordinary marriage and wonder if you could ever possibly do the same.
This is an exceptional book, full of honesty and the longing for love that we all desire. It’s a story that will linger in your heart for a long, long, time.

By Dodi Schmidt

First and foremost this is a fascinating story. Not only is it well told, honest and heartfelt, it is also very interesting intellectually. Here are two fundamentally different people, attracted to one another from the getgo for all the good reasons: the physical attraction, the curiosity about cultural background and beliefs, the wish to experience and understand the other's thinking and convictions, the unimportance of age. It was hard to put the book down, you just want to keep reading. The story is also satisfying in the sense of character development. The often tricky relationship unfolds in honest discussions, in opening up to the other's needs, in acceptance of unfamiliar territory and the consequences. The book is a truly good read and it enlightened me in a wholly different way.

Janet Purcell

Profoundly Moved.

By Janet Purcellon

I was profoundly moved while reading this book. I am not a Muslim but have always held a high measure of respect for the Muslim faith. This book took me much farther, however. I have gained a deeper understanding of Muslim beliefs and lifestyle.
Although I was uncomfortable about the way the temporary marriage was ended, I found it a great privilege to read the intimacy, commitment and mutual respect evident in the deep love of this couple.
The book is so well written, I found myself neglecting things I should have been doing so I could read on spending time with the characters and learning what would come next.
My only wish in awarding the book 5 stars is that there were more to add.