Sunday, May 3rd, 2015
The Short Take:
This truly exceptional first novel explores the Armenian genocide during World War I, as experienced by a fifteen-year-old girl and her family. Horrendous cruelty, family secrets, ancient prejudices, and a budding romance weave together in her well-crafted story. It’s most excellent.
I remember my mother using the phrase “starving Armenians,” but had no understanding of the source. The ethnic cleansing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during WWI was well before both our times. Ohanesian focuses on one family to convey the tragedies that destroyed well over a million lives.
Moving between the era of these relocations and massacres and 1990, the veils of secrecy and illusion are gradually parted to reveal a stunning story — as engaging as any thriller yet founded in genuine human pain and endurance.
Ohanesian leavens the pain with philosophical observations and old sayings invoked by various characters; just like the rationales and justifications we all use to get through dark times. And, she does a masterful job of it.
A Little Plot:
A successful rug merchant dies, leaving a will that bequeaths the family home to a woman no one knows. His grandson, Orhan, seeks the woman out.
Reluctantly, she tells him of her family’s ordeal during the Armenian genocide. What he learns changes his perspective of everything.
For more about Ohanesian and her novel, click here.