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Hedy Reviews “The Sandcastle Girls”

By Library Staff

The Armenian genocide took place 100 years ago in the Ottoman Empire.  Turkey currently denies that it was genocide, so there’s a great deal of controversy going on, especially during this centennial year. “The Sandcastle Girls” is written by someone with Armenian heritage, and it’s pretty clear what he thinks.  The main character, Elizabeth Endicott, is a wealthy young Bostonian who, after a crash course in nursing, volunteers to help deliver food and medical aid to Armenian refugees in Syria during WWI.  She meets an Armenian engineer and falls in love.  Years later, their American granddaughter stumbles across a photograph that causes her to research her family history and discover a disturbing secret.

According to the Author’s Note (written in 2015 in the paperback edition) three out of four Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire at that time were killed, some of them in gruesome ways, so those who survived were really tough–and lucky–and most Armenians today are their descendants.  I became fascinated with many aspects of Armenian culture after reading this book, including food, music, and literature.  Everyone I’ve talked to agrees that “The Sandcastle Girls” is hard to read in that some images are grueling and heartwrenching, but it’s all about survivors and there’s a lot of comfort in that.