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An immigrant’s tale—the specter of a life abandoned, the perilous promise of a better future—can make for compelling drama. Author Farnoosh Moshiri’s forced flight from revolutionary Iran in 1983 (she would end up in Houston for a time) provides an intriguing back story for her searingly beautiful novel Against Gravity (Penguin Books). It’s the tale of Iranian immigrant Roya Saraabi and her daughter, Tala, who escape horrific events in their homeland to find an unsettled existence in Houston. The narrative is triangulated, told first in the voice of Madison Kirby, an AIDS-afflicted neighbor who stalks Roya; then by Roya, who reveals her and Tala’s tortuous journey to Texas; and finally, by Ric Cardinal, a social worker weighed down by a lifetime of grief. Moshiri writes with a spare and effective elegance that makes Against Gravity a stunning piece of fiction.