Book Review: Not Without My Daughter

Updated on August 11, 2018
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Not Without My Daughter
Betty Mahmoody
0552152161 (ISBN13: 9780552152167)
No. of Pages
420 pages
St. Martin’s Press
Publication date
Not Without My Daughter: The Harrowing True Story of a Mother's Courage
Not Without My Daughter: The Harrowing True Story of a Mother's Courage
A true account which chronicles Betty Mahmoody's time in Iran and her subsequent escape along with her daughter.

'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 during 1984-86 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 adapted into a movie of the same name in 1991 starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina.

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


‘Not without my daughter’ is an autobiographical account of Betty Mahmoody who fell in love with an Iranian Dr 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 two-weeks 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 long 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.
During 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 dead 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 mi (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. 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 perseverence and courage. The book tells an amazing story of resilience and determination which is heart wrenching as well as inspiring. A must read!

My Rating: 4/5

Alfred Molina & Sally Field in "Not Without My Daughter"
Alfred Molina & Sally Field in "Not Without My Daughter"

Not Without My Daughter (Film)

Not Without My Daughter is a 1991 American film which 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 has co-founded One World: For Children, an organization which works towards promoting understanding between different cultures and strives to offer security to the children of bi-cultural marriages.

Quiz on Betty Mahmoody

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Trailer for "Not Without My Daughter"

© 2018 Shaloo Walia


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    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      5 months ago from India

      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!!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      5 months ago from Fresno CA

      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.



    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      10 months ago from India

      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.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      10 months ago from Philippines

      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.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      10 months ago from India

      Thank you Ajay.

    • profile image

      Ajay mete 

      10 months ago

      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.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      2 years ago from India

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

    • manatita44 profile image


      2 years ago from london

      Thanks Shaloo.

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

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      2 years ago from India

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

    • shprd74 profile image

      Hari Prasad S 

      2 years ago from Bangalore

      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

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      2 years ago from India

      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.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      2 years ago from India

      @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 profile image

      Dana Tate 

      2 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      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 profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

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

      Happy 4th!

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      2 years ago from India

      @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.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      2 years ago from India

      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.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

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

    • mactavers profile image


      2 years ago

      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.


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