11 Mar / A Bride’s Story (vol. 7) by Kaoru Mori, translated by William Flanagan
Thanks to his “fellow countryman,” our peripatetic Turkey-bound Englishman, Mr. Smith, finds himself welcomed into a lavish Persian home. “I’m impressed, Boss,” his guide and companion Ali remarks, “You sure know some powerful people.”
Momentarily glimpsed but intentionally hidden in the sprawling compound is Anis, the wealthy tradesman’s beautiful young wife who, in spite of all her sumptuous surroundings, lives shuttered away in virtual isolation. Pampered and adored by her husband when he manages to be home – which clearly isn’t often enough – Anis’ life of plenty leaves her with far too much time alone. Beyond her many servants who occasionally allow her to play with her own infant son, Anis’ only companion seems to be a fickle, fluffy (Persian, of course) kitty. And yet she insists repeatedly that she’s “happy.”
Noticing her loneliness, Anis’ main servant Mahfu begins to tell her about a special relationship two women might share as “avowed sisters.” Such a pairing involved “two women who are both married and have children … [who] make a lifelong contract with each other … they are best friends for life.”
Anis is intrigued, but unsure where she might meet such a person, until Mahfu suggests a match might be made at the public baths. With her husband’s cautious blessing and Mahfu as her guide, Anis ventures out – shrouded and nearly invisible – and discovers a naked world of steam, swirling water, and possibility.
Almost immediately, Anis notices “a remarkable woman,” but doesn’t know how to approach her. She relies on Mahfu to teach her how to start a conversation, how to possibly make a friend. And so her courtship with Sherine begins. What happens by volume’s end is quite the unsettling surprise.
As the traveling duo announce their imminent departure, Mr. Smith voices a similar consternation to his gracious host as to the latest developments in his home. To take the “power to help” as a serious responsibility is certainly “typical reasoning” across cultures and borders, but the manifestation here of that ‘help’ prove … well … rather surprising.
Creator Kaoru Mori’s latest exquisitely detailed installment is surely her most revealing – literally: inside the back cover you’ll even find a fold-out of bathing beauties in glorious full color. It’s also the volume that might linger longest for its (disconcerting) deus ex machina resolution – cultural and historical interpretations notwithstanding. But then, when in Rome – or somewhere in ancient Persia – contemporary western mores are probably best left outside these covers.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2015 (United States)