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This richly textured first novel is set in 17th-century Persia as the nameless narrator tells how after her father's death she and her mother travel to Isfahan where they live as servants in the home of an uncle, Gostaham, learning his trade of rug-making. The narrator attracts the romantic attention of Fereydoon, a wealthy horsetrader's son, but because of her lowly status she is offered only a three-month renewable marriage contract. Eventually, the headstrong heroine finds her way based on her skill at rug-making, the process of which is described in loving detail, as is the daily routine of life in medieval Persia.