“The Sandcastle Girls”, by Chris Bohjalian

Overall Rating: 5/5

Read it, or save your time?  Fundamentally a love story, but rich with history, this is a masterful piece of historical fiction that flips between the past and the present, one of my favorite writing styles.  Not sure I can really do this one justice, so here are just a few of the amazing reviews it received:

“A searing, tightly woven tale of war and the legacy it leaves behind. . .A nuanced, sophisticated portrayal of what it means not only to endure, but to insist on hope.” — Nathalie Gorman, Oprah.com

“It takes a talented novelist to combine fully ripened characters, an engrossing storyline, exquisite prose and set it against a horrific historical backdrop — in this case, the Armenian Genocide — and completely enchant readers. The prolific and captivating Chris Bohjalian has done it all with The Sandcastle Girls.” — Kim Curtis, The Associated Press

What’s it about?  1915: WW1 is in full force, and the Turkish government is systemically killing off the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. Many are being deporting to Syria under harsh conditions and left to die of thirst in the relentless heat of the desert.  Elizabeth Endicott, a young, wealthy American with a crash course in nursing and a desire for adventure, leaves behind her life of privilege and sets off for Syria to assist the refugees pouring in.  Shocked by what she sees, which Bohjalian depicts in excruciating detail, she does her best to offer aid and comfort.  While there, she forms a close relationship with a young Armenian, Armen, whose wife and daughter were both murdered in the genocide.  After Armen unceremoniously leaves for Egypt to join the British Army and avenge the death of his family, they begin writing each others letters of love and hope.

Present day New York: Laura Petrosian, an author who has never given her Armenian heritage much thought, receives a phone call from a friend who claims to have seen a picture of her grandmother in a museum exhibit dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Holocaust.  Laura begins to look into her family’s past, and uncovers the haunting secret that plagued her grandparent’s for a lifetime.

Reviewer’s Note: Not only is it beautifully written, but I love the fact that it is about a true event in history that I previously (and sadly) had never heard of.



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