The Sandcastle Girls

January 2017 – Nancy

Nancy’s Pick
January 2017

The Sandcastle Girls
Chris Bohjalian

The Sandcastle Girls is an historical fiction that contains parallel stories of a young Boston woman, Elizabeth Endicott, in 1915 and a young woman, Laura Petrosian, in 2010.

Elizabeth in 1915 accompanies her wealthy banker father on a philanthropic mission to Aleppo, Syria. Laura in 2010 researches her Armenian heritage and discovers secrets that her grandparents never shared with the family.

Elizabeth’s father’s mission in 1915 is to aid Armenian refugees fleeing atrocities committed by the Ottoman government. Elizabeth is a recent Mount Holyoke graduate, with a crash course in nursing, and very little ability in the Armenian language. She meets an engineer, Armen, who believes that he lost his wife and daughter during the chaos of deportations and mass murders of Armenians. Their friendship strengthens and Armen leaves Aleppo for Egypt to fight with the British Army in World War 1. He returns to Aleppo and the couple makes their way to America. The author, Chris Bohjalian spares no gritty details in describing accurately the atrocities of the Armenian genocide and World War 1.

Nearly a century later, Laura is living in a suburb of New York City when a friend tells her that there is a photo of her grandmother, Elizabeth, being used to advertise a photo exhibit about the “Slaughter You Know Next To Nothing About.” As Laura explores her past, the story of Elizabeth and Armen unfolds. Laura discovers a wealth of letters, photos, and documents that explain that what she and family considered just to be her grandparents eccentricities are really tied to a rich and tragic history.

The author, Chris Bohjalian, skillfully writes this historical fictional keeping the complicated historical events of the Armenian massacres at the forefront. He is a prolific best selling author who through his novels takes readers on spectacular journeys. The Sandcastle Girls makes the reader want to explore more of the history of Aleppo, Syria, the Ottoman Empire, and the tragedy of the Armenian people.