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The Sandcastle Girls: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 17, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (July 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385534795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385534796
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (640 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Masterful . . . a near-perfect work of historical fiction. . . . The contemporary and historical sections each have a different flavor, but both are well written and engaging with interesting, three-dimensional characters. . . . Enlightening.” —Book Browse
“Compelling . . . Deftly mixing fact and fiction . . . Bohjalian weaves the story like threads in a rug, each thread adding color and shadow to a scene. . . . [S]o filled is it with the suspense of life and death that The Sandcastle Girls is difficult to categorize. The story is fiction, but is true. It's history, but it's also art." —Diane Scharper, The Weekly Standard

"It takes a talented novelist to combine fully ripened characters, an engrossing storyline, exquisite prose and set it against a horrific historical backdrop—in this case, the Armenian Genocide—and completely enchant readers. The prolific and captivating Chris Bohjalian has done it all—again—with The Sandcastle Girls. . . . Seamless . . . A fascinating journey through time and history." Kim Curtis, The Associated Press
"Sober, elegiac, and respectful. . . . A fiction like Bohjalian's [has the] power to reach legions of readers." —Margot Harrison, Seven Days

“A sweeping love story . . . Toggling between two eras, Bohjalian paints a vivid portrayal of love and pain and the strength to survive each. At once heartbreaking and hopeful, The Sandcastle Girls is a mesmerizing work of historical fiction influenced by the author’s heritage and driven by a romance so beautiful and believable it hurts." —Nicholas Addison Thomas, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
“Bohjalian is a literary novelist unafraid to reference Proust's madeleine and expect readers to get it. But his books are also filled with artfully drawn characters and great, passionate storytelling. The Sandcastle Girls is all that, but different, more powerful. . . . Handled with such skill that it seems perfect.” —Curt Schleier, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A searing, tautly woven tale of war and the legacy it leaves behind. . . . A nuanced, sophisticated portrayal of what it means not only to endure, but to insist on hope.” —Nathalie Gorman,  

“Remarkably supple . . . Moment by moment, and passage by passage, the novel lights up a disturbing period of history.” —Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
“Telescopic . . . Because of Bohjalian’s writing style, which never rings a false note as it moves from present-day New York to the tragedy of World War I, his characters are as real as our own relatives. The well-researched history that forms the background informs, intrigues and enchants—even as recollections of horror mount . . . [A] story of love, world history and the human condition.” —Brandy Hilboldt Allport, The Florida Times-Union

"A compelling new novel that is part love story, part history lesson . . . An eye-opening tale of longing and discovery [and] bittersweet reflection on hope even in the darkest circumstances. . . . Bohjalian’s book is about the ways the past informs the present, about the pain but also the richness of heritage. . . . Remarkable."  —Amy Driscoll, The Miami Herald

“Bohjalian deftly weaves the many threads of this story back and forth from past to present, from abuse to humanity, from devastation to redemption. His ability to add irony and wit makes the contrasting horrors even more intense. . . . Staggering [and] utterly riveting . . . [A] valuable and powerful piece of evidence pointing to the undeniable.” —Eugenia Zukerman, The Washington Post
“Stirring . . . The Sandcastle Girls wraps the threads of a significant historic event around a deeply moving story of survival and enduring love.” —Carol Memmott, USA Today
“Cool and lucid . . . With Armen and Elizabeth, Bohjalian has fulfilled the duty of anyone seeking to document a genocide—he ensures that we don’t look away.” —Julie Wittes Schlack, The Boston Globe

“Dead-solid perfect. Bohjalian is a literary novelist unafraid to reference Proust's madeleine and expect readers to get it. But his books are also filled with artfully drawn characters and great, passionate storytelling. The Sandcastle Girls is all that, but different, more powerful.” —Curt Schleier, The Seattle Times
“Bohjalian—the grandson of Armenian survivors—pours passion, pride, and sadness into his tale of ethnic destruction and endurance.” —Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
“[A] great read . . . An affecting tale set at the time of a lesser-known holocaust, 1915’s Armenian genocide.” —People

"Chris Bohjalian is at his very finest in this searing story of love and war. I was mesmerized from page one. Bravo!" —Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
"In his latest novel, master storyteller Chris Bohjalian explores the ways in which our ancestral past informs our contemporary lives—in ways we understand and ways that remain mysteriously out of reach. The Sandcastle Girls is deft, layered, eye-opening, and riveting. I was deeply moved." —Wally Lamb, author of The Hour I First Believed 

"Bohjalian's powerful novel . . . depicts the Armenian genocide and one contemporary novelist's quest to uncover her heritage. . . . His storytelling makes this a beautiful, frightening, and unforgettable read." —Publishers Weekly

“Bohjalian powerfully narrates an intricately nuanced romance with a complicated historical event at the forefront. With the centennial of the Armenian genocide fast approaching, this is not to be missed. Simply astounding.” —Julie Kane, Library Journal (starred)

"An unforgettable exposition of the still too-little-known facts of the Armenian genocide and its multigenerational consequences." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"A powerful and moving story based on real events seldom discussed. It will leave you reeling." —Elizabeth Dickie, Booklist

About the Author

Chris Bohjalian is the critically acclaimed author of fifteen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Double Bind, The Night Strangers, and Skeletons at the Feast. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah's Book Club. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages, and three of his novels have become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers). He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.
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More About the Author

Lincoln, Vermont's Chris Bohjalian is the critically acclaimed author of 17 books, including nine New York Times bestsellers. His work has been translated into over 25 languages and three times become movies.

His new novel, The Light in the Ruins, debuted as a New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and national Indiebound bestseller. The book is a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet set in Tuscany at the end of the Second World War.

His epic novel of the Armenian Genocide, The Sandcastle Girls, was published in paperback in April.

His next novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, arrives on July 8, 2014.

His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage, and Salon.

His awards include the ANCA Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian Genocide; the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award; and the Anahid Literary Award. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He has been a weekly columnist in Vermont for the Burlington Free Press since February 1992.

Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer, and their daughter Grace Experience.

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Customer Reviews

Great story with very well developed characters.
Very interesting and well told story containing a history of Syria that one hasn't heard during the present day barbarism there.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction.
Susan Egan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

191 of 200 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Granfors TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Chris Bohjalian seeks out difficult subjects. His novels are unique. His novels are passionate. His novels make the horror of violence in the world a series of human interactions. He does not use gratuitous violence. Instead, he puts forth the truth, offsetting the sickening carnage with characters who are changed and strengthened by bearing witness to man's inhumanity to man.

In "The Sandcastle Girls," Bohjalian takes us to Aleppo in 1915. A young American, Elizabeth Endicott, has come to assist the Armenian League of America with the thousands of refugees pouring into Syria from the genocide in Turkey. The Armenians who arrive are nearly dead. Elizabeth possesses few practical skills, except that she can write a discrete report and she is capable of handling some nursing duties, not flinching at blood or bed pans.

Elizabeth lives somewhat isolated in the American compound. In the city, the orphanage houses wild children who feed off those younger and weaker. The town square fills with women who have walked, now naked, across the desert. They are to be "relocated." No one can be trusted. The officials who say they will help, the quiet readers on a train, the casual guard in the street--danger is everywhere.

From this mind-numbing situation, Elizabeth grows into a new woman. She finds a man she loves. She journeys into primitive conditions to try to help those taken to the desert to die of starvation and the lack of water. She makes a foray into becoming a maternal figure, sheltering one woman and one child from the chaos all around her.

As the narrator says in "The Sandcastle Girls," "How do a million and a half people die with nobody knowing? -- You kill them in the middle of nowhere.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on July 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS, Chris Bohjalian's 15th novel, covers a different territory from most of his other books, which usually feature his home state of Vermont. This moving multi-generational saga of an Armenian family is set on multiple continents and encompasses a century of tumultuous change and upheaval both in the world at large and in the lives of its protagonists. Like Bohjalian's previous works, THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS features ordinary, relatable characters caught up in events beyond their control.

Laura Petrosian, an obvious stand-in for the author himself, is a successful fortysomething American novelist in search of her roots, in particular those of her ancestors who fled the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Turks. The Armenians know this event as "Meds Yeghern," the Great Catastrophe. Laura's search is prompted by the discovery of a photograph of an emaciated woman in an exhibit of Armenian victims of the ethnic cleansing. She bears Laura's family name, so perhaps she is a relative of some sort. Laura, who has basically tolerated but has not embraced her grandfather's ethnic heritage thus far, is suddenly inspired to learn more about the events that shaped her Armenian ancestors' lives.

The novel travels back and forth in time between Laura's current-day search for her family's history and her American grandmother Elizabeth's introduction to Armenia nearly a century ago.

Twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth Endicott lands in Aleppo in what would become modern-day Syria in 1915 as World War I rages around the globe. She is freshly armed with a degree from Mt.
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It turned out to be the horrors of the events chronicled in this novel that ended up having the most impact on me, and not the characters through whose eyes Bohjalian tells this story of a part of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and onward by the Ottoman rulers and the "young Turks" -- a genocide that it's still impossible to discuss in today's Turkey, where denial is the rule.

Bohjalian is to be commended for taking on the task of trying to make the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in the desert wastes of Turkey and Syria as vivid in our imaginations as is the Holocaust. But while there have been so many great novels set against the background of the Holocaust, this isn't a great novel, merely an adequate and rather predictable one. We know from the first pages that the narrator's Armenian grandfather and Boston-born grandmother meet in Aleppo (modern-day Syria) at the height of the massacre, and end up building a life together; the only question becomes how that happens. Somehow, Armen must survive the genocide and Gallipoli -- but obviously that happens, so there's less suspense. Obviously, Elizabeth in her turn makes it out of Aleppo, and any barriers to their love prove surmountable.

There are horrors here -- very vividly depicted, in sometimes nauseating detail. But without the sense of our primary characters -- Armen, Elizabeth or Laura, the present narrator -- having their lives at stake or their sense of selves deeply threatened -- it is too often a less engaging narrative than the nature of the story demands. Perhaps had Bohjalian chosen not to blend Laura's quest for the truth of her grandparent's experiences with the main story set in 1915, I would have found myself as caught up in Bohjalian's fictional story as I was with the historical facts?
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