Thursday 27 September 2018

Orhan's Inheritance

Finished September 16
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian

This novel is set in 1990, where Orhan is a young man working in his grandfather's rug business in Turkey. Orhan's grandfather Kemal took on the business after his war service in the fight against Russia in the early twentieth century. As the book begins, Kemal has died, with his body found sitting in a vat of dye. Orhan knows that by tradition, his father would inherit, but the will his grandfather wrote left the business to him, and the house to a woman that Orhan has never heard of, Seda Melkonian.
Orhan's grandfather and father have never got along well, and his father has had little to nothing to do with the business. It is Orhan and his Auntie Fatma who deal with the business.
It is a notebook of drawing, one of many his grandfather had, that the lawyer gives Orhan, that has the address of Seda. She is in a nursing home in California.
Orhan is determined to go there and meet her, not only to convince her to sell the house back to them, but also to find out why his grandfather left it to her.
The letter from Orhan preceding his arrival is a reminder of the past for Seda, a past she long ago put behind her. And as she meets with Orhan, the story takes us back to 1915, the year in which Turkey began the deportation and genocide of its Armenian citizens. As we learn Seda's story, we also learn of her connection to Kemal, and to the rug business that he ran. We also learn a lot about this part of history, a difficult and sad history.
Orhan had his own time of exile, when, as a budding young photographer, he was imprisoned for the subjects of his photographs, and eventually freed on condition of exile. Thus he lived in Germany for a few years before returning home and joining the family business. He hasn't picked up a camera in years. As he leaves to go to California, Auntie Fatma gives him his old camera and an album of his photographs, and, during his trip he finds himself slipping back into the old ways of looking again.
This is a tale of discovery, of history resurfacing, and of hope.
The author is herself of Armenian heritage and part of her impetus for writing the story was for her own children to know their history.

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