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On the Enemy's Side

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Loved it! 😍

A historical and political novel with a romantic twist--On the Enemy's Side features well-developed characters, setting, and story-line.

On the Enemy's Side takes the reader back to early 1980s Iran, offering a glimpse of what life was like for people in the early stages of the Islamic Revolution. We're introduced to real people in a divided country who are seeking to understand the upheaval around--and within--them.


Writing a historical novel set during the Hostage Crisis in Iran seems tricky. Specifically, it seems as if it would be easy to slide into a history lesson or an indictment of one side or the other. In short, one danger of such a story is that the reading experience is a slog and reads like a lesson. Baika avoids falling into lectures, though, and even though the book is obviously well-researched, it reads well.


Part of the beauty of this story is how the upheaval and questioning of ideas and ideology are brought to the individual level. Baika tells a variety of personal stories--of Bibi, of the young bride Esmat, of Hesam, and of Bahram. This novel is literary in tone and is reminiscent of the short story, "The Guest," by Albert Camus. While Hesam and Bahram are at the center of the novel, the themes of identity, honor, and morality in the face of oppressive systems repeats with each character.


Like all good novels, this one left me wanting more. That desire doesn't necessarily indicate an unfinished novel, though. While I was left with questions about all of the characters at the end, the book is successful because it refuses to offer up any easy answers for the characters and forces the reader to do the work of considering their options and what might happen beyond the novel.


Baika is successful with the individual character development as well as with immersing the reader in a culture and time period they likely are not familiar with. The level of description helps readers visualize Iran in 1980, the prison conditions, and the cultural expectations of men and women.


This book will appeal to readers who enjoy contemporary literature with larger themes and questions. However, readers looking for a romance might be disappointed that the novel's larger focus is on the big questions about identity, belief, and allegiance--as a result the romance is more a device than it is true focal point.

Reviewed by

Angelic Rodgers lives in L.A. (Lower Arkansas) with her wife, two unruly cats, and two codependent dogs. She is currently working on her sixth novel. You can keep up with her at www.angelicrodgers.com and on social media (contact points are on her site).

April 17, 1980: Karoun Prison, Ahwaz

About the author

Hamour Baika was born in Iran and lived in Ahwaz during his teen years. He wrote his first novella, a fan fiction piece about the alien creature E.T. at age 12. Baika has a master’s degree in human rights. A painter and classical pianist, he now lives in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. view profile

Published on June 16, 2020

Published by

70000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: LGBTQ Fiction

Reviewed by