The Sandcastle Girls ( CD)
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Over the course of his career, New York Times bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian has taken readers on a spectacular array of journeys. Midwives brought us to an isolated Vermont farmhouse on an icy winter's night and a home birth gone tragically wrong. The Double Bind perfectly conjured the Roaring Twenties on Long Island?and a young social worker's descent into madness. And Skeletons at the Feast chronicled the last six months of World War Two in Poland and Germany with nail-biting authenticity. As The Washington Post Book World has noted, Bohjalian writes ?the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish.?
In his fifteenth book, The Sandcastle Girls, he brings us on a very different kind of journey. This spellbinding tale travels between Aleppo, Syria, in 1915 and Bronxville, New York, in 2012?a sweeping historical love story steeped in the author's Armenian heritage, making it his most personal novel to date.
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe, and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There, Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British Army in Egypt, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.Flash forward to the present, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents' ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed the ?Ottoman Annex,? Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura's grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family's history that reveals love, loss?and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.A historical love story inspired by the author's Armenian heritage finds early 20th-century nurse Elizabeth Endicott arriving in Syria to help deliver food and medical aid to genocide refugees, a volunteer service during which she exchanges letters with an Armenian engineer and widower. By the best-selling author of
Chris Bohjalian is the author of more than a dozen works of literary fiction, many of which have been categorized by critics as "issue novels," because of their focus on such important topics as homelessness, the environment, and the hazards of childbirth. Bohjalian's unusual last name is Armenian; his paternal grandparents were survivors of the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman government around the time of World War I, and the massacres form the backdrop for his acclaimed 2012 novel, THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS. After graduating from Amherst College in 1982, Bohjalian, who had been discouraged from pursing a writing career by one particularly scornful professor, took a job at a New York City ad agency. In 1986, after a harrowing encounter with an irate cab driver, he and his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer, decided to move to Vermont. They purchased a century-old clapboard home in the small town of Lincoln, and Bohjalian began writing a Burlington Free Press column, "Idyll Banter," about his new life. (The pieces were published in a book of the same name in 2003.) His first novel, the murder mystery A KILLING IN THE REAL WORLD, was published in 1988. His previously modest readership increased greatly upon the publication of his fifth book, MIDWIVES (1997), which was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her influential book club. Since then, Bohjalian's work has appeared regularly on bestseller lists, and he has won numerous literary honors, including the New England Book Award. MIDWIVES, PAST THE BLEACHERS (1992), and SECRETS OF EDEN (2010) have all been adapted into well-received films. Bohjalian credits his adopted home for much of his success. "Writers can talk with agonizing hubris about finding their voices, but for me, it was in Vermont that I discovered issues, things that matter to me," he told an interviewer. He explained that among his favorite quotes is one by Wendell Berry: "If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are."
"A gruesome, unforgettable exposition of the still too-little-known facts of the Armenian genocide and its multigenerational consequences." (starred review) 05/15/2012
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