March 17, 2016

March - The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Two reasons to read Chris Bohjalian's The Sandcastle Girls - word has it that Bohjalian is a superb writer and the refugee aspect of this book ties in with current events. After all, one of the themes of our reading this year is learning.

As far as the writing was concerned, none of us was overly impressed. We felt like there were too many points of view in use and that first person narrator piece sometimes felt awkward, although we knew why Bohjalian chose to use it. Some felt there were just too many characters to try to keep track of in a book that wasn't that long. We also had some quibbles with how things played out, particularly in a key part of the story.

The story, however, we all found interesting and even those of us who were aware of the Armenian genocide had our eyes opened. We wondered how much of what Bohjalian included was true, although we felt certain that most of it must have been for him to have included it, particularly because of the way he included the details. Lisa had done some research to check this out for the group and between what Bohjalian had written about and what Lisa learned, we had a lot to discuss. Why the leaders of Turkey had decided to wipe out the Armenians, how they had managed to carry it out, how the rest of the world could not have noticed or why they didn't care if they did, how this genocide might have impacted the genocide of the Jews little more than 20 years later. We couldn't help but feel that Adolph Hitler may have used the Armenian genocide as a blueprint for how to carry out the extermination of the Jews without the world noticing or carrying enough to interfere.

We talked about Hatoun, a little refugee girl taken in by a refugee woman and an American woman who brought them both into the American consulate. How she dealt with what had happened to her and how it impacted the rest of her life made us wonder how someone so young might survive watching her mother and sister beheaded (or any of the other terrible ways parents and siblings were killed or died).

While this wasn't a favorite book for anyone, it was definitely a book that made for a great conversation - about the events in the book, about the aftermath of those events, and about how they tie in with events in the world today.

Book clubs looking to learn something and looking to have an intelligent world-view discussion might well find this book worth reading.