Desperada by Sofia Mostaghimi

Definition: desperada (feminine desperado) in dire need of something, being filled with, or in a state of despair: hopeless; without regard to danger or safety; reckless; furious.

     In Sofia Mostaghimi’s emotionally gripping debut novel Desperada, the author has given us a vividly complex female anti-hero from the very definition above. Still reeling from the sudden death of her younger sister Kimia, who drowned on their last family vacation, Kora internalizes her grief and shuts everyone out, leaving her Iranian-Canadian family behind as she sets out on a reckless path of self-destruction with drugs, booze, careless sex, and dizzying amounts of self-pity.

     Kimia’s death is posted on her Instagram page and Kora can’t help but check it every day, punishing herself for simply being alive when Kimia is not. While scrolling through photos on her own social media, Kora stumbles across a recent message from an ex-lover and suddenly books a flight to Iceland to visit him. Thus begins her desperate search for human connection, something to fill the void inside with something other than blank space and loneliness.

    With nothing but regret and shame to anchor her home, Kora chases death across the globe, landing in Paris, Berlin, Istanbul…anywhere that will bring her closer to the edge; to that border that lies between life and death. Kora instinctively knows that she must eventually return to the ocean, the place where she lost her sister, if she is to find herself and destroy the looming vulture of guilt that beats its wings inside her chest. Does her forgiveness lie at the bottom of the ocean?

     Mostaghimi claims that horror doesn’t have a colour, but I believe grief does, and according to Kora, it is a deep ocean blue. One that swallows her every time she thinks of her sister. Waves of grief and pain continue to pull her under throughout the entire novel, until she finally breaks the surface, breathing the air into her damaged soul.

     The story is reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, but is a more visceral, more profound read with darker themes and a deeper poetic voice. The author explores the relationship of sex and death, how each can mirror the other. Mostaghimi fills Kora’s journey with such rich and compelling prose that I often had to re-read passages several times just to savour the words. There were several lines I could quote, but I will leave it to others to read the story for themselves. Desperada was absolutely stunning and I could not put it down, turning the pages long into the night. Definitely my favourite read of 2023, so far.

SOFIA MOSTAGHIMI is a Toronto-based fiction writer. Her work has appeared in Joyland MagazineThe Fiddlehead, and The Puritan, among others, and has been longlisted for the Journey Prize and the Toronto Book Awards. Desperada is her first novel.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House Canada (April 18 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1039003397
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1039003392

Lori Green is a Canadian writer who has been writing poetry, horror, and dark fiction since she first picked up a pen. Her work has been accepted in various publications including Blank Spaces Magazine, Ghost Orchid Press, Dark Rose Press, Black Hare Press, and more. She studied English Literature at the University of Western Ontario and now lives along the shores of Lake Huron. She is currently working on several short stories and writing her first novel. You can follow her on Twitter @LoriG1408.