Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 11, 2014
Rating: 5 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse calls this story for readers of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray "a fine and haunting work." Blending magical realism and lyrical free verse, this is an intense survival story of three siblings caught up in the horrific events of the Armenian genocide of 1915.
It is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is crumbling into violence.
Beyond Anatolia, in the Armenian Highlands, Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister, never wants to leave her home, especially now that she is in love. At first, only Papa, who counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, stands in Shahen's way. But when the Ottoman pashas set their plans to eliminate all Armenians in motion, neither twin has a choice.
After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, Shahen and Sosi flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. Shahen keeps their parents' fate a secret from his sisters. But the children are not alone. An eagle named Ardziv watches over them as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers red with blood.
This book. Oh, my heart. I knew this one would be a powerful read, but experiencing the novel, the story... I so wanted to cry while reading this book. Historical fiction meets magical realism - this book was amazing.
This book is written in verse, and follows four different perspectives. No, don't get upset, it never FEELS like too many. Usually, I get irritated with more than two. But with this story written in verse, and the nature of the fiction, four perspectives totally worked. This isn't your typical fiction novel, with an epic plot, someone saving the world, a prominent and sweeping romance. Don't get me wrong though, this book was all kinds of epic and sweeping.
Shahen, Sosi, and Mariam are three Armenian siblings living in 1914, during the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The animosity between the Armenians and the Kurds is palpable. Anahid, their older sister, married a Kurd (which is frowned upon). When soldiers start to pillage and burn villages, the siblings' parents send the three siblings into the mountains. Sosi and Shahen are twins, in their teens, but Mariam is five. This is their story, of how they fled their village, left behind their parents, and began to survive and find their way out of the crumbling world.
I LOVE the setting of this novel, the history, the political conflict, the portrayal of the war, the effects of the deteriorating empire... Walrath really did her research, to make this book come alive. I love historical fiction, and this novel is no exception. It feels almost like non-fiction, like an actual account of children's life during the Armenian genocide.
The nature of this story actually made me want to know more about the Armenian genocide. I know a good deal about the two World Wars and many other events that occurred in the 1900s, but the Armenian genocide isn't well-thought in grade school, and I didn't know much about it. I love how well Walrath writes about this tragic time in history, how she incorporates small details that make such a difference. But I also love how this book made me think, made me wonder, made me curious, made me sad.
Oh, how this story was heartbreaking. It's one of those books where you're sure that everyone is going to end up dead. That is not the case (no spoilers, but that's not the case), but I could see how Walrath could have made that happen. Walrath includes content such as prejudice (between the races), gender roles, rape, pillaging, death, death, death. What happened during this time is so incredibly tragic and heartbreaking. My heart aches for the mother of the three siblings especially.
I love how well-written this book is. It's completely in verse, and it is beautiful. I was skeptical about how I would respond to the novel being written in verse, but I loved it. It totally works for this story, because it makes it so much more powerful. This story would not have read the same way, if it had been written like freestyle fiction.
Each of the siblings are so different. Shahen wants to go to America. He is small for a boy, almost feminine. Sosi wants to stay in the village and marry Vahan, a clock-maker's son (someone she can never marry because of other factors). Mariam is five and loves that her brother (Shahen) is teaching her to write. We get each of their perspectives, in the first person. It's interesting to see the evolution of Mariam's perspective - a child.
The fourth perspective will remain unknown... mwahaha.
I love this book so much. I would totally reread it, and I wish that everyone would give this book a chance. Don't like historical fiction? Okay. But this is like, non-fiction historical fiction. It's real, it's powerful, and it sheds light on a very real and very tragic historical event. Excuse me while I go cry!
What I Did Not Like:
I can't think of anything! I always say, no book is perfect, and there is always something that a reader does not like about a book... but I can't think of whatever that is at the moment.
Would I Recommend It:
YES! Historical fiction fan or not, read it! It's worth the read, if not for the historical fiction aspect, for the beautifully written verse!
5 stars. Well deserved (you know I'm stingy with the 5-star ratings)! This is definitely one of those books that will stick with me for a long time.
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