Synopses & Reviews
A striking literary exploration of the effects of political violence as it reverberates through the Armenian Genocide of 1915, the Guatemalan civil conflict of the 1980s, and present-day Los Angeles from award-winning novelist Micheline Aharonian Marcom.
Draining the Sea is the most ambitious and provocative book to date from acclaimed author Micheline Aharonian Marcom. The story unfurls inside the mind of a man who spends his nights driving the streets of Los Angeles, racked by memories and visions of the Guatemalan civil war, and, in particular, of a beautiful young Mayan woman who died violently in it. He was in love with her, but, it seems, may have played a role in her death. He also is very aware of the United States' complicity in the horrors of that conflict, further twisting his anguish. And in his mind, her fate resonates back to his own childhood as the grandson of survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Micheline Aharonian Marcom, herself descended from Armenian Genocide survivors, has always been haunted by the long-term effects of atrocity. In Three Apples Fell from Heaven, she told the tale of the forcible deportation and massacre of Armenians with unsparing directness. In The Daydreaming Boy, she imagined a man living in Beirut who is forced to face the emotional aftermath of his brutal boyhood as an orphan of the genocide. Now, in this darkly lyrical novel, Marcom offers a powerful testament about the far-reaching impact of political violence and lost love.
"Marcom (Three Apples Fell from Heaven; The Daydreaming Boy) looks at the Guatemalan civil war through the eyes of a former American soldier complicit in the killing of civilians in this circuitous novel. As the unnamed narrator, a descendant of Armenian genocide survivors, drives through Los Angeles and goes through his daily routines, he's awash in memories, mostly about Marta, an Ixil prostitute whom the narrator both loved and possibly killed. In a florid stream of consciousness, the narrator continually revisits several themes, events and images: black flies, Marta's brother's murder, Marta's torture and death among them. Throughout, Marcom weaves references and imagery from religion, mythology and Guatemalan, Armenian and American history, and indicts the powers-that-be for turning a blind eye toward the slaughter of indigenous people. Though some may find that Marcom overly romanticizes Ixil life and is ham-fisted in her critique of American consumerism, the novel's evocative imagery and explicit prose can move as well as chill. In the end, though, the book is more demanding than enlightening." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"With the gorgeous prose that has characterized her previous works, Micheline Aharonian Marcom gives us a new work of obsession, tragedy, and the unpredictable trajectories of the heart. Crosscutting between the stories of a half-Armenian man in Los Angeles and a brutalized young woman in Guatemala, Marcom beautifully mines the undercurrents that suffuse their lives." Cristina Garc’a, author of Dreaming in Cuban and A Handbook to Luck
"[T]he poetic language and vivid images are affecting." Library Journal
"Although her unsubtle condemnation of American actions in Latin America makes this work somewhat more political than her previous ones, Marcom's unique proficiency in describing souls infected by the viral contagion of violence is again on full display." Booklist
"Despite her worthy intent, Marcom's ambition here overshoots her execution. Perhaps she needed more time to distill her material. It is not an easy matter to push against the boundaries of language to express unimaginable horror. More likely, her design is flawed. Yoking the Guatemalan genocide with the Armenian one and with the extermination of Southern California's indigenes, the building of the Los Angeles aqueduct, the transformation of the Los Angeles River into a concrete 'river freeway' and the alienating effects of modern life is a tall order." Jane Ciabattari, Los Angeles Times
(read the entire Los Angeles Times review
The extraordinary new novel from the winner of the: 2004 Lannan Literary Fellowship 2005 PEN USA Literary Award for Fiction 2006 Whiting Writers? Award
?A new work of obsession, tragedy, and the unpredictable trajectories of the heart.?(Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban)
A powerful testament about the far-reaching effects of political brutality and lost love, Draining the Sea sifts through the incongruities of history and memory, unfurling inside the mind of a man who spends his days driving the streets of Los Angeles, racked by visions of the Guatemalan Civil War and, in particular, of Marta, a beautiful young prostitute who died violently in it?a tragedy in which he himself may have played a role.
About the Author
Micheline Aharonian Marcom was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Los Angeles. She works as a counselor in the Upward Bound program, a federally funded college-preparatory program for low-income high school youth, and lives in northern California.