The Sandcastle Girls
July 31, 2012
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The Sandcastle Girls (B+) by Chris Bohjalian is the most intense story I have every read. In 2012 Laura Petrosian sees a photograph taken in Aleppo, Syria depicting a malnourished, emaciated Armenian woman. The caption under the picture includes her grandmother’s name, Elizabeth Endicott.
In 1915, the Turks slaughtered a million and half Armenian people. This genocide is “the slaughter you know next to nothing about”. History books do not detail this massacre, children are not taught about it; yet it is one of the most devastating events to ever occur.
Bohjalian, an Armenian himself, made several unsuccessful attempts at writing this story. Now with the centennial of the massacre approaching, there seemed no better time to bring it to the attention of the world. It was a story that had to be written and he does it masterfully.
Elizabeth, Laura’s grandmother, went to Aleppo with her father on a philanthropic mission. She understood that there was a war raging but she was totally unprepared for the horrific conditions she would find. Almost as soon as she arrives she meets Armen, an Armenian engineer and knows that he is going to change her life forever. He has survived the slaughter at Harput and is sure that his wife and child have not. He is in Aleppo searching for anyone that would have news of them.
The Sandcastle Girls is a love story in the midst of war. It is a story like none other. It is extremely graphic. I read it in small doses. It is humanity at it’s worst and it is compelling.
My closest friend is Armenian. Her grandmother was a survivor and like the characters in the book her memories were too painful to speak about. She said enough though to give her family a sense of the horror; they were aware of her loss.
The Turkish have never been made accountable for their actions. It is time the world became aware of this unspeakable event. The Sandcastle Girls will certainly ignite the conversation and educate people regarding the unfathomable genocide the Armenian people endured.