The novel alternates between the horrific experiences of the Armenian people in Turkey during World War One, and the current lives of the survivors, now elderly and frail. When Orhan’s grandfather Kemal dies, he predictably leaves the family rug-making business to his grandson. However, he unexpectedly leaves Orahan’s family home in Turkey to a strange woman living in Los Angeles. Orhan must travel to the US to discuss the bequest with this elderly Armenian woman. At first she wants nothing to do with this young Turkish man, but once she is able to tell him about her previous life, Orhan’s world view and his understanding of his family history are irrevokably changed.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
This highly rated first novel was a finalist for the PEN Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction. The author draws upon her Armenian heritage and the experiences of her grandparents and great grandparents to tell the story. It is difficult to read about the death march of women and children across Turkey, and terrible to think about the thin veneer that divides our civilized selves from our animal selves. The reader is forced to bear witness along with Orhan. The book contains themes of redemption and hope in the ability of every generation to create the family they need to survive.