Cover image for Sunday's silence
Sunday's silence
Nahai, Gina Barkhordar.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt, [2001]

Physical Description:
309 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The bestselling author of Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith weaves
a literary spell of love, shame, death, and the power of faith,
set against the charismatic world of Appalachian snake handlers.

Lauded for her beguiling stories of passion and history set in exotic lands, Gina Nahai's new novel takes place in a hidden part of America-a land untamed by man, seemingly forgotten by God, but filled with the mystical fervor for the miracles promised by Jesus Christ. After seventeen years in flight from his roots, Adam Watkins returns to Appalachia to investigate the murder of his father, Little Sam, a renowned Holy Roller. The suspect, Blue, is a fiery-haired, purple-eyed beauty with a reputation for being immune to earthly harm.

When Blue and Adam meet, the power that moves between them is both dark and exhilarating. Will their sudden love, like the mortal bite of a poisonous snake, destroy them or redeem them? In indelible images and mesmerizing prose, Nahai explores the triumph of passion over reason, the cross-cultural sympathies of fundamentalism, and the price of extremism.

Author Notes

Gina B. Nahai has lived in Iran, Switzeland, and the United States. She is the author of the award-winning and internationally praised Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith. A frequent lecturer on Iranian-Jewish history and the topic of exile, she has studied the politics of Iran for the U.S. Department of Defense.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Nahai's third novel (following Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith, 1999) is certainly ambitious. A snake-handling religious cult takes center stage, but subplots veer into Kurdistan and Nazi Germany. And through a combination of dramatic incident and imagistic prose, the talented Nahai nearly brings it off. Adam is the bastard son of a snake-handling preacher. When he learns of his father's death by snakebite, and that a female parishioner has been blamed for the death, he decides to return to his Appalachian hometown to investigate. What he finds is Blue, a Kurdish immigrant who "looked like rain, with her purple eyes and her innocent's smile." The two embark on a passionate affair, which gives them the strength to face their troubled pasts and to throw off the constraints that have kept them both on the run. Nahai wanders near and far, and readers with a weakness for style will willingly follow her, but, finally, the novel never quite gels. For a more focused lyrical treatment of a religious cult, see Lee Smith's Saving Grace (1995). --Joanne Wilkinson

Publisher's Weekly Review

How different is Iran from Appalachia? Iranian-born writer Nahai's first two novels, Cry of the Peacock and Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith, were set in her native land, to great effect and rave reviews. Now, in a thoughtfully executed third novel, Nahai takes on Appalachia, illuminating another region whose people are united by a fundamentalist faith, their beliefs as exotic to, and misunderstood by, most Western readers as those of the people of Iran. Foreign correspondent Adam Watkins is stationed in Lebanon when he receives news that Little Sam Jenkins, the father he barely knew, has died of snakebite. A snake-handling preacher who had survived nine decades of hard living and 446 snakebites, Sam finally succumbed to the venom of a snake given to him by Blue, a gorgeous Kurdish woman born in Iraq, and herself a skilled snake-handler who never fit in with the Holy Rollers. Adam, having tried for 18 years to create a new life for himself, returns home looking for answers: What drove Sam? And was Blue merely testing Sam's faith, or did she intend to kill him? A strong sense of geography and religious history provides the backdrop as Nahai explores the enigma of charisma, opening a window on an insular world and rendering the "other" America explicable. Alternating with Adam's story is the first-person account of Blue, her voice charged with the mythic, seductive power of a Scheherazade. Faith versus fanaticism, fear as a motivating force for seeking salvation these themes are examined, as events both tragic and redemptive unfold. This multifaceted work expands Nahai's fictional universe in new and curiously fitting directions. Agent, Barbara Lowenstein. (Nov. 1) Forecast: Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith was a bestseller on the West Coast and has been translated into 16 languages. The Appalachia setting of Nahai's latest may startle her fans and lead to slow sales at first, but strong reviews should attract new readers. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Adam Watkins, the estranged bastard son of an Appalachian snake-handling minister, has removed himself from his hick past. Now a foreign correspondent in 1970s Beirut, he must return to Tennessee when he learns that his father has been murdered. His search for the perpetrator leads to Blue, a beautiful Kurdish Jew and child bride of a University of Tennessee linguistics professor who has hidden his background as an Arab Jew. This is only a morsel of this novel's highly convoluted plot. Nahai (Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith) claims that she wanted to compare the fundamentalist religions of Appalachia with those of her native Iran, but readers looking for objective insights into America's bizarre backwoods faiths won't find much. The book is populated with atypical characters isolated from their respective cultures, so they have little to say about their society. Depictions of Appalachia's miserable poverty and snake-handling traditions are shockingly detailed, but the novel doesn't display an understanding of the fabric of Appalachian society as a whole, focusing only on its fascinating anomalies. Long flashbacks of Blue's life in Kurdistan ring truer than the American scenes, but the hurried overview lacks immediacy. An optional purchase, but this could still be a good read for those who enjoy novels with unusual settings and tangled plots. Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1SHE WENT TO find him when he most longed to see her, walked through town in her white cotton dress and her bare feet, and all along the way men stopped and stared at her as if to wonder if she were not a figment of their imaginations. Adam sensed the men's agitation before he became aware of Blue's presence, heard the murmurs of their hearts and their faint, embarrassed gasps as she traveled past them like a breeze in the heat of the two o'clock sun of a Sunday afternoon in August. Then he recognized the stirrings of an old sadness, felt Blue move toward him with the beat of his own breath, and by the time he went to the door and saw her, he knew he should never have come back.She looked like rain.She stood before him with her purple eyes and her innocent's smile, a storm of golden-red hair against her tulip-white skin, her body long and lean and Unself-conscious, her arms bare and cool and hinting of desire-and he realized that he knew nothing about her at all, that he had spent days investigating the woman without gaining the slightest understanding of her."I wanted to see you," she said.They stood in front of the Lamar-Church Boardinghouse in downtown Knoxville. An old colonial mansion built on one of the original sixty-four lots that had comprised the city in its early days, the house had been abandoned for close to forty years-victim of the urban flight that overtook Knoxville after the Great Depression and that lasted well into the mid-1970's. For forty years the house had sat, unoccupied, along a deserted street, its windows smeared with dust, its steps crumbling with age and covered with kudzu. Around it the city had slept in shells of empty department stores and locked offices, houses overrun by colonies of mice and giant cats, cobblestoned alleys frequented by naked ghosts and orphaned children, railroad tracks that transported only freight cars, and a station where no train ever stopped. Then the city's leaders had embarked on a plan to invite life back into its center. The boardinghouse had been sold for a pittance to the first and only bidder, and money had been loaned for a renovation. Investors had been invited to take over stores and businesses. Streetlights had been installed. The train station had revamped. A year after it had opened its doors, the boardinghouse was still among only a handful of buildings that held a semblance of life downtown.That Sunday Adam shared the hotel with three other guests-college students from Amsterdam on a year-long cross-country tour of the United States. One of the boys had heard her come in and was now standing at the window of his room overlooking the street. Even without turning to see him, Adam could imagine the look of stupefaction on the boy's face, the way his eyes watered as they strove to swallow Blue's image whole, the way he whispered to his friends "come-to-the-window-and-look-for-yourselves-this-is-definitely-a-sight-to-see, the-one-we'll-remember-when-we're-old. Excerpted from Sunday's Silence by Gina B. Nahai All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.