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Gardens of Water: A Novel Paperback – February 10, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812978447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812978445
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #797,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Fascinating . . . a remarkable first novel [of] people struggling to define themselves in a world that seems against them.”
USA Today

“A real triumph . . . Alan Drew explores, with respect and understanding, clashes between cultures, faiths, and generations. In the end, we find ourselves feeling close to the characters and their world, as it is the very world in which we live.”
–Yiyun Li, author of The Vagrants

“Sensitive and thought-provoking, Gardens of Water is set in a perfectly realized Istanbul, a city where traditionalism and modernity grind together like the fragments of a collapsing building.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“A penetrating, tightly focused novel that balances the sweetness of youth and the brooding anxieties of parenthood with a robust understanding of the Muslim-Westerner encounter.”
–Leila Aboulela, author of The Translator

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Customer Reviews

Drew portrays these struggles very well.
Mara Zonderman
Culture and religion clashes with a love story.
SarahSmile
Take a few days right now and read this book!
Annette Volberding

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By K. Usey on March 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It has been nine years since the deadly Turkish earthquake of 1999, and yet the upheavals described in Gardens of Water echo throughout the news of today. Sinan, a Kurdish refugee shopkeeper working to establish a life in Turkey, fights to keep Turkey's liberal secular influences from affecting his family. But then the earthquake strikes, and the Turkish influences are joined with even more Western influences in the form of an American family who gives shelter and aid to Sinan and his wife and children.

One of those children, his teenaged daughter Irem, has already felt the temptations of the West as personified by Dylan, the American family's son. Thrown together in a post-earthquake refugee camp, Dylan and Irem test boundaries for both of their families. Irem is forbidden to see Dylan, confined to the family tent. "She was stained with rumors because of a kiss. But it wasn't a stupid kiss; it was everything; it was what she wanted most, the only thing that made her happy. And the walls of the tent were crowding in and her mother wouldn't shut up and she thought she would explode."

Questions of honor arise... the honor of women, the honor of Kurds, the honor of Muslims, the honor of good and decent individuals caught up in a chaos beyond their control. The clash of cultures leads to tragedy, though it is a tragedy accompanied by understanding.

The resonance of current events comes with the subtle examination of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, and a more explicit description of the good intentions of American Christians and the road they pave. Sinan's father fell victim to Turkish oppression, but Sinan must acknowledge that his father provoked the oppressor.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. Streb on February 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
First time author Alan Drew has crafted a story that offers everything a reader could want in a novel. His prose is somehow both lush and spare - it is a story lovingly told. The exotic location backgrounds the compelling saga of a Kurdish family whose life is ruptured as a result of the massive 1999 Turkish earthquake. The brilliantly told story explores how, in stressful times, clashes of culture, religion, age and economic status can lead to unexpected consequences. The hackneyed phrase "you won't be able to put it down" surely describes my reading experience. Don't miss this stunning novel by this new author - I eagerly await his next work.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By BCCJillster on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Gardens of Water--Alan Drew

My suggestion: Don't bother with plot summaries or opinions, just read it for yourself and if you're in a book group--make it a group read.

Gardens of Water has a lot for everyone, and gives insight into the culture clash within Muslim families in a way that's different. The Kurdish family (father, mother, 15-yr old daughter, 9-yr-old son) has been displaced to Turkey in the late 1990s. For the first time I feel some understanding of the Muslim male viewpoint, usually portrayed in a rather simplistic almost inscrutable, cold way. The father is old-fashioned strict but not a fundamentalist, a step toward middle-of-the road; I saw him as equivalent to first-generation European immigrants to the US: one foot in the old world and not quite sure how to raise their children, who are being exposed to values and situations they never faced.

You can read plot summaries anywhere, so I'll just concentrate on my reactions.
This fine book doesn't take the easy road of pat answers; many of the characters experience true inner conflict on several issues and both sides of the several issues seem to get fair treatment. The best part for me was gaining some small understanding of the thought process and crescendo of emotions in people (American and Kurd) whose beliefs are so different from mine. It also provides some insight into the effects of the situation in Iraq during Hussein's rule and the general area, but on a personal level. The writing is straightforward--none of the look at me I'm writing stuff--and the issues are quite accessible. In some ways, it's a kinder, gentler Kite Runner or Thousand Splendid Suns. Some have compared elements of the story to Romeo and Juliet, which I would have found off-putting.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mara Zonderman on February 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes, obvious flaws in things like characterization can be overlooked because of how well the book is written overall. Such is the case here. It wasn't until I was nearly at the end of the book, when things were clearly winding down, that I realized that most of the major characters had not been fully developed, nor were their motivations always totally clear.

But perhaps in this book the individual characters were stand-ins for the eternal conflicts of East vs. West and one generation against another. Both are realistically drawn as Irem struggles with herself against the traditions with which she's been raised, but is unable to completely break away from them. Her mother struggles to reconcile the choices she's made, and her desire to raise her daughter in the same way she was raised, with the evident changes in the world around her and the greater opportunities Irem could take advantage of. Sinan, Irem's father, struggles to support his family and to maintain the religious traditions that are important to him. None of the characters ever fully resolves their struggles, which is perhaps very realistic, although in some cases their own actions or events outside their control inadvertently lead to a resolution.

Drew portrays these struggles very well. Indeed, in some places he demonstrates a rare gift for the ability to paint a scene. One scene in particular that deserves special mention is the scene where Sinan takes his son to visit the holiest mosque in Istanbul. There, while trying to teach his son how to pray, Sinan must deal with the distraction of Western tourists who are touring the mosque. This scene is so vividly rendered that the reader can't escape the implications of the potential dangers to Sinan's faith and way of life inherent in the encroachment of Westerners.
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