The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian is one of those authors that constantly surprises me. None of his books seem to be the same. He’s written historical novels, twisty suspense, even a ghost story. This time he’s blending fact and fiction to tell the story of the Armenian genocide.
I am embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t aware that there even was an Armenian genocide. One of the main characters echoes my feelings: How did a million and a half people die and I didn’t know about it? To tell the story the author follows Elizabeth Endicott, a young women traveling to Aleppo with her father to distribute aid in 1915, and Elizabeth’s great-granddaughter, Laura Petrosian, an author trying to track down her family’s Armenian history and learning a LOT more than she thought she would, in present day Massachusetts.
This is a hard story to read; it is well written, it’s the subject matter that makes it a hard read. Hundreds of women and children were marched across the desert and when those who survived finally arrived in Aleppo they were little more than walking skeletons. And with the stories Bohjalian decides to tell the heartbreak becomes more vivid and real. A great story of a family, and the secrets hidden within families, that are sometimes buried for good reason.