The Sandcastle Girls, by Chris Bohjalian, is set during the little-known Armenian genocide that took place during World War I. The narrator is the grandchild of two of the main characters. She tells of her ancestors’ story; the story of love forming from the debris of war.
In 1915, an educated American named Elizabeth Endicott embarks on a mission with her father to relieve the suffering in Aleppo, Syria. While initially just a volunteer for the Friends of Armenia, Elizabeth becomes deeply invested in the tormented Armenians being marched through Aleppo. Before long she meets an Armenian engineer named Armen, who has lost much to the horrific genocide.
By choosing Laura Petrosian to narrate her grandparents’ story, Chris Bohjalian successfully adds an additional layer to the tale; we can see how an Armenian descendant is still drawn to the massacre of her ancestors and is deeply affected by it.
This book relies heavily on its plot, but nevertheless does a remarkable job of bringing the Armenian genocide into light. I was surprised to learn that much of what occurred during this genocide was similar to that of the Jewish Holocaust; at times I felt as though passages could have been describing either event.
This novel achieves the delicate balance of communicating a horrible reality while still providing the reader with an engaging storyline. Though a heavy topic, this book is a quick read that offers an informative account of an often-overlooked genocide as well as an impossible love story.