Friday, May 29, 2015
Like Water On Stone
Info: Delacorte Press, copyright 2014, 368 pages
A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): "We eagles sing no soothing songs. Our throats can only whistle. Instead, we hunt them down, take them from others."
It is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is crumbling into violence.
Beyond Anatolia, in the Armenian Highlands, Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister, never wants to leave her home, especially now that she is in love. At first, only Papa, who counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, stands in Shahen's way. But when the Ottoman pashas set their plans to eliminate all Armenians in motion, neither twin has a choice.
After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, Shahen and Sosi flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. Shane keeps their parents' fate a secret from his sisters. But the children are not alone. An eagle named Ardziv watches over them as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers red with blood.
Historical fiction can be difficult when you're unfamiliar with a time period, culture, or event. There's often not a lot of time to familiarize yourself with what's going on...especially if the historical fiction novel is in verse. And that's where I started with this particular title, trying my hardest to figure out what was going on.
The Goodreads description gives the low-down about as well as can be done. There is a family who loves their home stuck in the middle of an ancient war. Shahen is a boy who yearns to be a young man, to make his own decisions, find his own way in the world. Sosi, his twin sister, longs to be in love, to settle down, to build a life that is all her own. Unfortunately, these two will have to grow up much faster than they should.
You don't get a lot of context, but that's okay. In the end, this is really a coming-of-age story about family and courage. The verse isn't flower-y, which can sometimes happen. It's gritty and heartbreaking and an excellent, human introduction to studies on the Ottoman Empire.