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{November 14, 2019}   {5 Star Review} Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

From Goodreads: The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian’s Armenian heritage.

When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.

Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed “The Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss – and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.


The first book of Chris Bohjalian’s that I read was Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, and it was an absolutely amazing novel–5 stars, no questions, so I knew that Sandcastle Girls was going to be just as wonderful, if not more so, and I was right. Sandcastle Girls is powerful, detailing “the slaughter you know next to nothing about”… and it’s just breathtaking. My father went on sabbatical to Armenia in the early 2000s to study the Armenian Genocide, but that was the first I’d ever heard of it, and I daresay, many people of today’s generation know nothing about it. With 1 million dead, I wonder why this genocide isn’t taught in schools, though the fact that it’s denied by many as ever happening, regardless of the accounts and evidence that shows that it indeed did happen, may be one of the reasons.

Bohjalian tells this story of genocide through the lens of two settings, one from 1st person present day Laura, researching her ancestry in order to understand her Armenian grandfather and American grandmother better, and the other from a 3rd person omniscient narrator set in 1915, the onset of the war against Armenians, ravaged by the Turks. This is a heartwrenching novel, but Bohjalian offsets the atrocities of the genocide by continually bringing us back to the present to breathe as we follow Laura’s research and begin to unearth her family secrets, and I found this a wonderful way to tell so delicate a story without overwhelming the reader to the point of no return.

A story of betrayal, death, and heartbreak, but also one of love and new beginnings, the characters, though fictional, brought a realness to the true story of so many people who didn’t live to tell their own. In the end, all kept secrets, and the revelation of such made this novel so poignant that I was unable to put it down as the characters came to life right off the page. Though ultimately a sad tale, it resonates with me, a story I won’t soon forget, and one that everyone needs to read. Five stars.

I borrowed the audible of this novel from the library, but loved it so much that I purchased a copy for my father and one for myself as well, because this novel is so powerful that it’s one for my shelves as well!

Did you know that you can read this novel for free with FREE TRIAL of Audible for 30 days? Try it today!

Kindle | Audible | Paperback | Hardcover


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