Synopses & Reviews
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.
The deep bonds among father, son, and daughter; the tension between honoring tradition and embracing personal freedom; the conflict between cultures and faiths; the regrets of age and the passions of youth these are the timeless themes Alan Drew weaves into a brilliant fiction debut.
"In Drew's well-intentioned if overwrought first novel, cultures clash as a teenaged Kurdish girl and an American boy fall in love over the objection of the girl's father, a Muslim Kurd living in Istanbul. Sinan, a shop owner, tries to keep his American upstairs neighbors, Marcus Hamm and his family, at arm's length. But this is impossible after an earthquake devastates Istanbul, and Sinan and his family end up living in a tent city provided by American missionaries. Marcus, the director of a missionary school, lost his wife in the earthquake; she was found dead, shielding Sinan's son, who was buried alive for three days before being rescued. Now, Sinan watches as his America-obsessed daughter, Irem, falls in love with Marcus's bipolar son, Dylan, and his impressionable younger son, Ismail, slowly becomes converted to Christianity at the camp. The story moves inexorably toward a climax in which Sinan's Muslim pride and Marcus's Christian proselytizing collide with predictably tragic results. Though some may find the ideological conflict that provides the narrative thrust too textbookish, Drew, who lived in Istanbul at the time of the Marmara earthquake, effortlessly transports readers to a wrecked Istanbul and finds shards of hope in the mountains of rubble." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A richly detailed, finely plotted demonstration of culture clash." Booklist
"[A] fast-paced and well-written narrative, one that convincingly explores the tensions between Islam and Christianity and the seismic cultural shifts that can result from natural disasters." Library Journal
Powerful, emotional, and beautifully written, Drews 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.