Not Without My Daughter: A Riveting True Story

Not Without My Daughter is a gripping memoir written by Betty Mahmoody in collaboration with William Hoffer. First published in 1987, this highly acclaimed book recounts Betty’s harrowing experience as she tries to escape from Iran with her young daughter, Mahtob, after being held captive by her Iranian husband.

The Captivating Story

The book begins with Betty, an American woman, visiting Iran along with her husband, Dr. Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody, and their daughter. Initially, the trip seems like an opportunity to introduce Mahtob to her Persian heritage and spend time with her husband’s family. However, soon after arriving in Tehran, Betty’s husband reveals his true intentions: he plans to remain in Iran permanently and raise their daughter under Islamic law, effectively trapping Betty in a foreign country against her will.

Over the next year, Betty endures unimaginable hardships as she desperately tries to escape with Mahtob. She struggles against the oppressive Iranian society, facing constant surveillance and threats from her husband and his family. Betty’s determination, resourcefulness, and love for her daughter serve as the driving force behind her relentless fight for freedom.

Awards, Reviews, and Praise

Not Without My Daughter received widespread recognition and was a critical success. The book spent over 40 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list and was eventually adapted into a feature film in 1991. The movie starred Sally Field as Betty Mahmoody and further brought attention to this powerful story.

Although the book faced some controversy due to allegations of cultural insensitivity and a biased perspective, it also garnered significant praise for shedding light on the challenges faced by women in patriarchal societies. Many readers and critics praised Betty’s bravery and resilience throughout the narrative, making it a highly recommended read for those interested in stories of survival and the strength of the human spirit.

Important Characters

Not Without My Daughter introduces several significant characters, each playing a role in shaping Betty’s journey:

Betty Mahmoody: The protagonist and narrator of the book, an American woman who finds herself trapped in Iran and fights to escape with her daughter.

Mahtob Mahmoody: Betty’s young daughter, who becomes a source of strength and motivation for her mother during their ordeal.

Dr. Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody: Betty’s Iranian husband, who initially conceals his true intentions and holds his family captive in Iran.

Amir Hekmati: A compassionate Iranian stranger who aids Betty and Mahtob during their escape attempt.

Mohammed Reza Pahlavi: The Shah of Iran during the time Betty and her family are in the country, whose fall from power further complicates their situation.

These characters, among others, contribute to the richness and complexity of the narrative, enhancing the readers’ understanding of Betty’s plight and the cultural context surrounding her struggles.


In conclusion, Not Without My Daughter is a captivating memoir that sheds light on a woman’s battle for freedom in an oppressive and unfamiliar culture. Betty Mahmoody’s story serves as both a cautionary tale and a testament to human resilience. Despite the controversies surrounding the book, its powerful narrative and exploration of cultural differences continue to fascinate and captivate readers. Whether in book format, audiobook, e-book, or podcast, Not Without My Daughter remains an essential read for those interested in thought-provoking stories of survival and the indomitable human spirit.

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