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Book Review: "Not Without My Daughter," by Betty Mahmoody

 'Not Without My Daughter' is a memoir by Betty Mahmoody

'Not Without My Daughter' is a memoir by Betty Mahmoody

Memoir of an American Held in Iran

Not Without My Daughter is a memoir by Betty Mahmoody detailing her escape along with her young daughter, Mahtob, from Betty's abusive husband in Iran. The book narrates Betty's experiences from 1984 to '86 when she left Alpena, Michigan, to go to Iran—and was subsequently held there against her wish. The book was nominated for Pulitzer Prize. It was later adapted into a movie of the same name in 1991 starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina.

Book Facts

  • Title: Not Without My Daughter
  • Author: Betty Mahmoody
  • Genre: Memoir
  • No. of pages: 420
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
  • Publication date: 1987
  • ISBN: 0552152161

"You are here for the rest of your life. Do you understand? You are not leaving Iran. You are here until you die."

— From 'Not Without My Daughter'


Not Without My Daughter is an autobiographical account of Betty Mahmoody, who fell in love with an Iranian doctor named Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody and got married to him in 1977. All was perfect in their married life and they had a lovely daughter, Mahtob.

The trouble started when they went to Iran in 1984 for a two-week visit. She reluctantly visited Iran along with her husband and daughter for what she was promised would be a short trip. At least, this was what her husband had told her. Mahtob was four years old at the time. The two-week visit turned out to be a fake promise. After the two weeks were over, her husband refused to go back and refused to allow her to return.

From 1984-86, she was held in Iran along with her daughter against her will. Betty became trapped in a country that was hostile to Americans. Her own husband had turned abusive and his family was against Betty. Her husband threatened to kill her if she tried to escape.

Finally, Betty was able to escape from Iran along with her daughter after spending two torturous years there. The book details her 500-mile (800 km) escape to Turkey through the snowy Iranian mountains and the help she received from many Iranians which helped her to escape. After her return to America in 1986, she filed for divorce.

My Review

The book is a touching account of the miserable state of women in Iran. It also depicts the trauma a woman faces for marrying outside her religion and nationality for the sake of love. It shows how religious fanaticism changes her husband from a loving person to an abusive brute.

Above all, the book describes the determination of a women to fight against all odds for the sake of her daughter. It’s amazing to see how far a mother can go to protect her daughter. It’s a very compelling and emotional account of a lone woman’s struggles in a foreign land. I was amazed by Betty's perseverance and courage. The book tells an amazing story of resilience and determination that is heart-wrenching as well as inspiring. A must-read!

My Rating: 4/5

Alfred Molina and Sally Field in the film, "Not Without My Daughter"

Alfred Molina and Sally Field in the film, "Not Without My Daughter"

Not Without My Daughter (The Film)

Not Without My Daughter is a 1991 American film that was based on the memoir of the same name by Betty Mahmoody.The main characters Betty Mahmoody and Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody were played by Sally Field and Alfred Molina respectively. The film was directed by Brian Gilbert. It didn't fare well at the box office and was poorly received.

Betty Mahmoody

Betty Mahmoody

About the Author

Betty Mahmoody is an American author and public speaker. Her claim to fame is her memoir Not Without My Daughter. She has also compiled stories of other parents whose foreign spouses estranged them from their children in the book For the Love of a Child. She co-founded One World: For Children, an organization that works towards promoting understanding between different cultures and strives to offer security to the children of bicultural marriages.

© 2018 Shaloo Walia


Shaloo Walia (author) from India on February 24, 2020:

I am so sorry to hear that. May God gives you the strength to move on from your traumatized past and may the future brings you much joy and happiness!!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

I saw the movie but did not read the book. It was heart-wrenching. I married a Bolivian man and although he did not go back to Bolivia, he was abusive and domineering. I also had two daughters and I feared for them, so I finally left him and divorced. He managed to turn the girls away from me by telling them I was a liar and that he never beat me. When they were just teens they went to live with him and he hurt them too. He has been married 4 times and has 11 children, all of them traumatized. He is not a nice man. I'm afraid to read the book because I know it will have details that will mirror some of my own abusive situations and make me cry.



Shaloo Walia (author) from India on September 27, 2019:

Thank you Mona. I loved the book but haven't seen the movie. I have heard that there's a book by Betty Mahmoody's daughter as well in which she shares her perspective. That's next on my wishlist.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on September 27, 2019:

This is a wonderful book review. I read the book many times in the past, as well as Mahmoody's second book which was about other women who found themselves in similar circumstances. It was surprising to know that the movie failed in the tills. It was such a thriller and Sally Field was magnificent playing the author. As always is the case, the book is much better than the movie.

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on September 22, 2019:

Thank you Ajay.

Ajay mete on September 22, 2019:

I am 10th standerd student and I read this book 2 months ago. This is an wonderful book.And your review is also nice. Thanks for writing this review. This is useful for my project.

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 04, 2018:

@Manatita Reading is my favorite pastime. And I read all sorts of books though wish I could focus only on spiritual books.

manatita44 from london on July 04, 2018:

Thanks Shaloo.

You are branching out, I see. No bad thing. This sort of Memoirs are usually compelling pieces. Hari Om!!

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 04, 2018:

Thank you Hari! I haven't watched the movie but the book is definitely worth a read.

Hari Prasad S from Bangalore on July 04, 2018:

Quite a gritty story. Being stuck against ones will is the worst situation one can be in. Human will to survive is supreme. Will watch the movie if i cannot get the book from a library. :-). Nice review.

- hari

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 03, 2018:

Thank you Dana! Betty's daughter Mahtob has also written a book now with her perspective on the incident. I look forward to reading it.

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 03, 2018:

@Jackie I find books always better than the film's. I make it a point to read the book first before watching it's movie adaptation.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on July 03, 2018:

I saw the movie and I loved it. it's a lovely memoir on a woman's courage and a mothers love. Excellent review.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on July 03, 2018:

I am familiar with this story, maybe the film, am sure I would like it if not.

Happy 4th!

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 03, 2018:

@mactavers oh my God! What a traumatic time it must have been for your friend! It's so painful that someone you loved turn out to be an entirely different person.

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 03, 2018:

Thank you, Bill..Reading is my favorite pastime. I generally write book reviews on my blog. But thought, would post a few here for a change.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 03, 2018:

You read some fascinating books. Thank you again for a wonderful review.

mactavers on July 03, 2018:

I read this book years ago. It became personal when a friend married her dream man from Egypt. She was an artist and willing agreed to move to Egypt with him a year after their marriage. They didn't have any children, but she became a captive to her husband and his family. It took her two years to get away from them.