Debut author Zilelian’s story follows a family of Armenian immigrants struggling to adapt to the American way of life while also contending with traditional coming-of-age conflicts.
While navigating issues of immigration and cultural assimilation, the family struggles with its own inner dysfunction: two parents embroiled in an unhealthy relationship, a missing daughter, and another daughter desperately grappling with the disappearance of her sister. As more characters become involved in the drama of finding Araxi, the family is forced to begin communicating. Though painful, this communication breaks open new opportunities for growth. Told in third person, the novel shifts to a new character in each chapter, allowing for the slowing of time and a careful view of how each character’s life is affected by the developing plot. Concrete details—ragged robes, chipped coffee mugs, leaky toilets, and worn, old music boxes—bring the domestic landscape to life, offering more than just a generic suburban family for the reader to hear, see, and sometimes smell. Voices are unique, from the annoyed, depression-dulled voice of the mother to the feeble, yet intelligent, voice of Sophie, the younger daughter. Sophie’s fascination with Araxi and her sister’s companion, Cecile, comes through in her thoughts: “She pictured them walking alongside each other, Araxi with her long dark hair and brown eyes, hands shoved in her pockets, and Cecile with her shoulders thrown back, and her waist length blond hair tied in a high ponytail.” The story shifts back and forth from the narrative of the family, aching for information about Araxi, to the journey of Araxi and Cecile, both of whom have run away and must face obstacles on the road, at motels, and with one another.
A lyrical description of a family’s search for their daughter and for their humanity.