Posted by: Jeanie F | July 25, 2012

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian – Review by Aline Ohanesian

It is a real thrill for me to introduce my first guest blogger, Aline Ohanesian, to review Chris Bohjalian’s new novel, The Sandcastle Girls.

Ms. Ohanesian’s upcoming novel, The Exile, was a finalist for the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and is scheduled to be released in 2013.

Learn more about Ms. Ohanesian and her work at

And now to her review:

Let me begin with a disclaimer: I was predisposed to like, no love, this book because I am a descendent of genocide survivors and my own upcoming novel, The Exile, is also about the Armenian Genocide. In addition, I’ve been a Chris Bohjalian reader and fan or a number of years. So now that I’ve blown all pretense at objectivity to smithereens, let me tell you why The Sandcastle Girls is a must-read.

This is an epic tale of love and loss. The kind of story that tears at your insides and makes you realize that “history does matter,” as one of the characters in Sandcastle Girls proclaims.

When novelist Laura Petrossian researches her Armenian heritage, she discovers that her Bostonian grandmother, Elizabeth, and her Armenian grandfather, Armen, fell in love in the midst of one of the greatest human rights disasters in history. As she delves deeper into the past, Laura uncovers family secrets that have been buried for almost a century. Bohjalian leads the reader into the Ottoman Empire in 1915 through the story of Laura’s grandmother, Elizabeth Endicott.

Elizabeth and her well-meaning father travel to Turkey on a philanthropic mission to provide food and medicine to the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, in which 1.5 million people were killed. Half-starved refugees who have endured unspeakable horrors stagger into Alleppo and into our hearts. There is the silent orphan, Hatoun, the noble Nevart and, finally, Armen, a young engineer who has lost his wife and young daughter, but finds love in Elizabeth’s arms.

The characters in The Sandcastle Girls will stay with you long after you’ve put the book down. It is a spellbinding story, masterfully told by Bohjalian, whose bestselling works include Midwives, Double Bind, Transister Radio, and Skeletons at the Feast.


  1. This is the second excellent review of this book I’ve come across in as many days. It strikes me as a good book for a reading group discussion. I think it may have to go on this Autumn’s list.

    • I agree! Will be recommending it to my book club, too.

  2. Great book. Picked it up earlier this week and couldn’t put it down. The review was dead on and captures the books story well.

    • Can’t wait to read it myself. Aline’s great review really got my interest.

  3. Could not get into it – sorry – gave my copy away.

    • What was it that you didn’t like? Pacing? Style? You’re a voracious reader – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

      • Not sure – maybe I was expecting the flavor of one of his other books – Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden; maybe it was the topic; maybe I just had too many books all at once from the library. Do you think I should give it another try?

      • I don’t know, I haven’t read it, but I have a lot of faith in Aline, my guest blogger. But as my tag line says, “Life’s too short to read bad books”, so if you’re not feeling it, I say move on.

  4. This is an extremely good read, full of death, despair, tragedy, love, hope, and optimism. This reader was shocked, moved to tears, shocked some more, and yes, even laughed at times. This is one book that you will want to put on your to-be-read list.

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