Saturday, February 16, 2008

Review: Gardens of Water

Summary: Powerful, emotional, and beautifully written, Alan Drew’s stunning first novel brings to life two unforgettable families–one Kurdish, one American–and the sacrifice and love that bind them together.

In a small town outside Istanbul, Sinan Basioglu, a devout Muslim, and his wife, Nilüfer, are preparing for their nine-year-old son’s coming-of-age ceremony. Their headstrong fifteen-year-old daughter, İrem, resents the attention her brother, Ismail, receives from their parents. For her, there was no such festive observance–only the wrapping of her head in a dark scarf and strict rules that keep her hidden away from boys and her friends. But even before the night of the celebration, İrem has started to change, to the dismay of her Kurdish father. What Sinan doesn’t know is that much of her transformation is due to her secret relationship with their neighbor, Dylan, the seventeen-year-old American son of expatriate teachers.

İrem sees Dylan as the gateway to a new life, one that will free her from the confines of conservative Islam. Yet the young man’s presence and Sinan’s growing awareness of their relationship affirms Sinan’s wish to move his family to the safety of his old village, a place where his children would be sheltered from the cosmopolitan temptations of Istanbul, and where, as the civil war in the south wanes, he hopes to raise his children in the Kurdish tradition.

But when a massive earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the Basioglu family is faced with greater challenges. Losing everything, they are forced to forage for themselves, living as refugees in their own country. And their survival becomes dependent on their American neighbors, to whom they are unnervingly indebted. As love develops between İrem and Dylan, Sinan makes a series of increasingly dangerous decisions that push him toward a betrayal that will change everyone’s lives forever. - random house

Every once in awhile I receive and Advance Readers' Copy from Random House. Last October, I was fortunate enough to receive GARDENS OF WATER by Alan Drew. I absolutely loved the book! Recently, I found the e-mail message that I sent to Random House immediately after reading the novel. Here it is:

"When I read your letter describing this novel (and the back cover), I knew it was going to be a book about which I would feel very passionately. I cannot express what an amazing book this is! When I learned that this book was about the aftermath of the 1999 Turkey earthquake, I became even more intrigued. I vividly remember the tragedy because I gave birth to my daughter the day after this horrific event.

I loved this book for so many reasons that I actually hated to finish it. I am absolutely positive that my book club (and many others) will be reading this next year after it's published. I am so anxious to see the discussion questions for this book. There are so many issues to discuss such as religious differences, cultural differences, relationships and loss (on many levels) just to name a few. I like how this book deals with a father/daughter relationship -- usually the parent/child relationship is that of a mother/daughter.

Given the current environment in the world, I think it is so important for Americans to see how they are perceived outside of the United States. I truly believe that the more we can understand about various cultures, the more tolerant we will become. One huge lesson from this book is that a lack of tolerance will lead to much unhappiness and loss. I also want to add that the interview with Mr. Drew in the back of the book really enhanced my reading experience. His insight into the culture, characters, etc. brought the book to a whole, new level! I would love to see more of these types of "conversations" in the back of Random House books."

As I read back over my initial comments on this book, I have to say that it still resonates deeply with me. I would love to have the opportunity for my book club to read and discuss GARDENS OF WATER in the very near future. I have now had a chance to look at the discussion questions, and I think it would be an incredible book to discuss among friends.

1 comment:

Jo-Jo said...

My entire book club received advanced copies of this book last November, so we had the opportunity to read it together at that time. We all loved this novel so much! Alan Drew is such a great storyteller. When we read it we did not have the discussion questions available, but I see that they are now. I think everyone in my club would be interested in reviewing the questions.