by Aline Ohanesian
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Brilliant, gorgeous, intelligent, rare!
Deeply moving, tragic yet hopeful, layers and layers of human history unfold in Aline Ohanesian's epic tale of love lost in Orhan's Inheritance. When Orhan's beloved grandfather dies, Orhan travels to his village for the reading of the will. Orhan's father is outraged and violent when it is revealed his own father left their family home to a stranger who lives half a world away in Los Angeles. Orhan is intrigued: why would his grandfather--stoic, hard-working, reasonable yet lately a bit eccentric--give away the beloved familial home? There must be some good reason. Orhan agrees to make the long journey and locate the mystery lady named in the will. His father tells him that he must get the woman to sign the rights to their home back to them.
Over the course of months, Orhan finally convinces the elderly woman to tell her story of a broken heart, an abandoned home, a ponce safe childhood, a family of wealth and honor, a war that purged Armenians from Turkey, a forced exile, brutality, and death. The story moves to the past: 1915 Turkey. Armenian men are being forced from their homes and taken away never to be seen again. Soon, the army makes the women and children leave. They are marched to the point of despair and sometimes death. The mystery woman named in the will is a young girl growing up Armenian in Turkey and the war is all around her. Her home was once a safe place, luxurious even. "Within hours, Lucine's world and everything in it turns to dust." Now, she is spit upon and treated worse than an animal simply because she's Armenian. Kemel (Orhan's grandfather) is in love with her and vows to protect her. He does his best to protect her and her family, but the army takes them away. Their mother makes the girls rip their clothing and rub mud on their faces. The army is known to take away "...the pretty ones."
Lucine is finally able to escape her captors after the deaths of her family. She finds solace with a kind hearted prostitute who allows her lodging. Lucine changes her name to Seda and becomes a completely different person. The girl of her youth is gone; the war makes certain of that. A chance meeting with Kemel allows Lucine (now Seda) an escape from Turkey.
The surprising will, the long trip, the history of war, names changed and families lost and buried family secrets finally come out. Orhan is dumbfounded. His grandfather has had the last say in all their lives.
Orhan's Inheritance is a story that will stick with you, and you will not forget the pain and tragedy. This forced evacuation and genocide of Armenians in Turkey has been hidden away for decades, but Aline Ohanesian captures her grandmother's memories to tell the story for us today and that is a gift.
Highly, highly recommended for adult book clubs everywhere. NOT for middle school readers.
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.
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