In a tiny village in rural Iran, Zal’s demented mother—horrified by his pale skin and hair, the opposite of her own—becomes convinced her baby is evil. She puts him in a wire birdcage on her veranda with the rest of her caged flock, and there he stays for the next ten years: eating birdseed and insects, defecating on the newspaper he squats upon, squawking and shrieking like the other birds.
He is rescued from that hell and adopted by a behavioral analyst who brings him to New York and sets out to help him find happiness. Zal is emotionally stunted, asexual, physically unfit, and trying desperately to be human as he stumbles through adolescence. His fervent desire to be normal grows as he ages, but the fact that he still dreams in “bird” and his secret penchant for yogurt-covered beetles make fitting in a challenge. He forges a friendship with a famous illusionist who claims he can fly—another of Zal’s bird-like obsessions—and embarks on a romantic relationship as well. His girlfriend, Asiya, crumbling under the weight of her supposed clairvoyance, sends Zal’s life spiraling out of control. Like the rest of New York, he is on a collision course with tragedy.
The Last Illusion is a wild, operatic, and startling homage to New York and its most harrowing catastrophe. It is tragic but laugh-out-loud funny, irreverent yet respectful, hugely imaginative yet universal.