Synopses & Reviews
Gardens of Water is an enthralling story of two families, and two faiths, in Turkey at the time of the cataclysm of 1999. It tells of Sinan, whose daughter, Irem, dreams of escaping the confines of her family and the duties of a devout Muslim woman. She sees in Dylan, an American boy and her upstairs neighbor, the enticing promise of another life. But then a massive earthquake forces Sinan and his family to live as refugees in their own country and leads to a dangerous intimacy with their American neighbors, as Irem and Dylan fall in love. When Sinan finds himself entangled in a series of increasingly dangerous decisions, he will be pushed toward a final betrayal that will change everyones lives forever. Powerful and beautifully written, Alan Drews Gardens of Water marks the debut of a brilliant new American writer.
Powerful, emotional, and beautifully written, Drew's stunning first novel brings to life two unforgettable families--one Kurdish, one American--and the sacrifice and love that bind them together.
About the Author
Alan Drew was born and raised in Southern California and has traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. He taught English literature for three years at a private high school in Istanbul, arriving just four days before the devastating 1999 Marmara earthquake. In 2004 he completed a master of fine arts degree at the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he was awarded a Teaching/Writing Fellowship. He lives with his wife and son in Cincinnati.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. Sinan is a character that is full of contrasts. On one hand, hes indebted to Marcus, and grateful to his help. But on the other hand, hes resentful of Americans, and particularly Marcuss Christian values. How does this inner conflict affect his judgment? Do you think he should have acted differently with regards to Dylan and Irems relationship? Do you think it would have mattered?
2. Dylans mother, Sarah dies while saving Ismail from being crushed by the rubble from the earthquake. Do you think Nilufer would have made a similar sacrifice for Dylan?
3. The relationship between Dylan and Irem has been described as star-crossed. In what ways is this true? How is their situation similar to the one in Romeo and Juliet? Do you think there was another way their story could have ended?
4. The idea of honor plays a large role in the book. Dicuss the differing standards of honor in men and women, Muslims and Kurds, locals and foreigners.
5. In what ways do Sinan and Marcus represent the larger issues of East vs. West?
6. Music plays a large role in Dylan and Irems relationship. Why do you think Drew chose Radiohead to be their favorite? Why do you think Irem identified so powerfully with the lyrics? Do you think music is the only thing universal enough to truly connect such different people?
7. In some ways, Gardens of Water could be seen as a commentary on the way Americans are often quick to come to the rescue in foreign countries, only to further complicate the situation. Do you think the story would have been different if Dylan and Marcus had been from a different country?
8. At one point in the book, Marcus says to Sinan: “Our children are not ours. Thats our mistake. We think they are. It seems so for a while—a few brief years—but they arent. They never were.” Do you think this is true? How does this opinion influence the different ways in which Marcus and Sinan view their children?
9. The story has an almost claustrophobic feeling to it at times, as the world literally crumbles around the characters. Describe the ways in which the different characters feel trapped, and how this affects their actions.
10. What do you think defines a happy life? How do the characters perceptions of this differ from one another?
11. Theres a big contrast between Irems family duties and her own interests and passions. Discuss the ways in which the story might have been different if it were about a Kurdish boy and an American girl, rather than the other way around?