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Gardens of Water: A Novel Paperback – February 10, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
At some point though, Gardens of Water seems to lose focus and becomes less and less believable, the initially tight storyline begins to "stray" and consequently becomes less and less convincing or engaging. Sinan, whose actions I could clearly understand in the beginning, seems to become more and more erratic in his behavior, but aimlessly so - there really seems to be no conviction (or too much rhyme or reason) behind any of his actions, contradictory as they are throughout the second half of the book. The same holds true for all the others: Dylan, who is initially painted as a sensitive teenager, is suddenly tagged as a person with a psychological disorder but then this is only mentioned once over the course of the entire book - it never becomes relevant to the story at all. So why the author felt the need to attach this trait to Dylan's character we never find out. His father Marcus never seems real in the first place. The religious convictions the author keeps associating with him seem to be there only to help the story along as they are only brought up when the author needs to create some tension between the Turks/Kurdish and the Americans. At least this is the impression I got.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting story of two families: a Muslim family and an American family in Turkey at a very stressful time for both families. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Sue D. Mackenzie
This book started off so well. I love historical, and cultural fiction. This story immerses us in Turkey within the life of a Kurdish Muslim family and their American neighbors. Read morePublished 2 months ago by M
Gracefully tender and painfully honest, inside the hearts and heads journey of those caught up in Kurdish/Turkish struggles and the complicated, laden motivations of American... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Lithel
Good storyline. Most main characters are alive and will follow the reader for a while. Muslim family values opposed to the Western are vividly depicted.Published 2 months ago by Paola Daziani
Engrossing Insite into another culture. The book takes you into the intimate lives struggles of a family. Sad but compassionatePublished 4 months ago by Kindle Customer
a difficult book to read, because of the cultural norms, but well written. Well worth the read to understand the basis of our cultural differences.Published 4 months ago by *****
Timely, prose good, new insight about a contemporary life. I enjoyed it greatly.Published 5 months ago by brenda jo brannan