The Sandcastle Girls

You know the term “investment piece?”

We hear it a lot in fashion and furniture. Sure, it’s not exactly trendy, and it costs more, but it lasts longer. You’ll use it forever. It’s well-worth the larger financial and/or emotional investment.

That’s “The Sandcastle Girls.”

This book isn’t going to blow up the summer reading charts in the same fashion as the “50 Shades” trilogy or Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” But it certainly isn’t any less worthy of accolades. It’s simply a really tough read. It is about a love affair, but it’s not traditionally romantic. Set in the early 1900s in Aleppo, Syria, young Katherine Endicott has traveled from Boston on a goodwill mission to aid victims of the Armenian Genocide. It’s fiction set in fact—while the story of Katherine and her true love, Armen, may not be real, the atrocities around them are—thousands upon thousands of women and children marched hundred of miles through the desert, essentially, to their deaths. Author Chris Bohjalian leaves little to the imagination, making the reading of this book hard on the heart. And that’s really the point, I think. When should reading about a genocide ever be easy?

Still, the tale is touching and the investment Bohjalian makes in each character results in an engaging narrative. Katherine, Nevart, Hartoun and Armen sink into your soul while you read their story. And in typical Bohjalian fashion, the ending includes a twist that leaves you yelling, “Noooooo!” —not something I expected in this novel, but nonetheless, I was left breathless.

From one reader to another—historical fiction set in the Middle East has never been my bag. But Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors, so despite the occasional thoughts of abandoning it (and for no other reason than because its descriptions of the atrocities are really depressing), I kept on—and am glad I did. Bohjalian’s prose never fails me, and in the end, it was a beautiful love story. I’d love to know what other people think of Katherine’s decision in the end.

The Sandcastle Girls
Chris Bohjalian

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