Khadivi’s disturbing debut novel opens in 1921 in Iran’s Zagros Mountains, where a young boy’s job is to warn his father and uncles if the shah’s army approaches. After an attack on the soldiers’ camp, during which the boy’s baba is pummeled to death, and all except the boy are killed, he is adopted by the soldiers as the “orphan Kurd,” a docile servant. Eight years later he has become “a plebe in the great army of the shah” and is given the name Reza Khourdi, his family history erased. At 15 his company attacks a Kurdish village. In the midst of his first kill, Reza remembers his past and realizes, “he is them.” Promoted and assigned to a village near his home, he marries a woman who lives “in opposition” to his every memory, and teaches their children to hate the Kurds. Khadivi’s writing, for which she recently won a Whiting Award, is luminous in this tragic story of an “orphan of the earth,” which is rendered in prose that is by turns graphic and poetic.