Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Gardens of Water" by Alan Drew

Summary: After a catastrophic earthquake in Turkey, two very different families are forever linked.  Sinan is a Kurd living in the country with his wife, teenage daughter Irem, and son Ismail.  In the apartment above them was an American family: the father Marcus, the teenage son Dylan, and the wife who dies saving Ismail in the earthquake.  When Americans, led by Marcus, set up a refugee relief area for those affected by the quake, Sinan and his family join the many others living in tents.  But the new situation also allows for a growing relationship between Irem and Dylan that will have repercussions for both families.

Musings: Gardens of Water is a story of two individuals torn between what they want and believe.  For Sinan, that means balancing his love for his children with his religious and cultural beliefs, and his preference for his son with his conflicting feelings about his daughter.  In the refugee camp, no longer in a role as provider of the family, Sinan must confront these conflicting feelings for the first time.  Meanwhile, the teenage Irem tries to balance her desire for freedom from the life her mother has led with her unwillingness to give up her family, culture, and religious beliefs. The novel shows that there are no easy answers for either individual, but that, inevitably, choices have to be made.

What I like most about Gardens of Water is it's full-fledged characters, from Sinan and Irem to Marcus and Dylan.  No one is a true hero or villain, as each one struggles with her or her own frustration, failings, and attempt to make sense of the universe.

Surprisingly for a book built on character development, the action moves quite quickly.  Short chapters and alternatively following Sinan and Irem keep the pace quick, even though the book centers around Sinan as a whole.

I know very little about Turkey and the conflict with the Kurds, and nothing about the 1999 earthquake, and I enjoyed learning more.  Although the author is an American, it felt as though all the characters were treated with respect as individuals with important similarities and differences.

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