Saturday, September 22, 2012

the sandcastle girls by chris bohjalian

A sweeping, gut-wrenching, intergenerational, epic story of love, war, and the Armenian genocide that moves between modern day Bronxville, New York, and Aleppo, Syria, in 1915. After receiving a call from a friend informing her that a photo of her grandmother has appeared in a local newspaper advertising an exhibit about "the Slaughter You Know Next to Nothing About," middle-aged novelist Laura Petrosian begins to explore her Armenian roots, uncovering a history that is unsettling and complex. Flash back to 1915, and we meet Laura's grandparents, fresh out of college Elizabeth Endicott, who has accompanied her father to Aleppo as a volunteer for the Friends of Armenia, and Armen Petrosian, an Armenian engineer who has recently lost his family to the genocide. When the two meet, sparks collide, and a relationship builds against the backdrop of WWI and the decimation of one and a half million Armenians at the hands of the Turks. Stunned by the painful reality of her family history, Laura swings between shock, "How do a million and a half people die with nobody knowing? You kill them in the middle of nowhere," and regret at not hearing firsthand "the losses and the secrets that her grandparents brought to their graves." An informative and engrossing page-turner, TSG has earned its place on the shelf next to the other great works on the Armenian genocide, Peter Balakian's The Burning Tigris, Grigor Balakian's Armenian Golgatha, and Franz Wurfel's 40 Days of Musa Dagh. An excellent choice for units on genocide, book clubs, discussion groups, or fans of historical fiction. A must read. Click here for a full review, here for a book trailer, and here to listen to Mr. Bohjalian discuss the book. Grade 9+