Wednesday 15 September 2021

The Sandcastle Girls

Finished September 9
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

I learned so much from this book as well as reading a great story. I was aware of the Armenian  genocide, but this book really brings it to life by taking the reader into the lives of characters involved in and witnessing the atrocities. 
The story is told in two timelines. One is is present day writer Laura Petrosian looking into her family history, and the other is the experiences of her grandparents. Her grandmother Elizabeth Endicott accompanies her father to Syria in 1915 as he brings food and medical aid to the Armenian refugees. They are working with a group called Friends of Armenia. While there she meets and connects with a young Armenian man Armen Petrosian who has been working with the German forces to lay rail as well as searching for his wife and infant daughter. The two German engineers that he is working with are upset by what they are seeing in regards to the refugees and have been secretly taking pictures of the refugees and noting their personal details. The day that Elizabeth arrives in Aleppo a group of women and children are herded into the city. Mostly naked, burnt from the sun and very malnourished, Elizabeth is faced with the reality of the situation. As she volunteers in the local hospital and takes one woman and child into her own quarters, she tries to understand more and she finds herself drawn to the young engineer. 
We also see things from Armen's viewpoint, how he has been searching for his family and what has happened to his brothers, how he tries to direct his anger towards a useful end, and how he feels about this young American woman he has just met. 
As Laura learns more about her grandparents, and finds personal information that she wasn't aware of before, she finds herself obsessed with their story.
This is said to be one of Bohjalian's most personal books as he is also Armenian in heritage. It is a heart-wrenching tale, but beautifully written.

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