A California architect debuts with a family saga about an Armenian clan that came to California after the Turkish massacres of 1915.
Half-brothers Andy Demerjian and Abe Voskijian arrived in the US with their refugee mother during WWI. Andy and Abe grew up in Fresno, California’s “Little Armenia,” and, like most second-generation immigrants, moved somewhat uncomfortably between the traditions of the Old World and the freedoms of the new. Although Abe served in the US Army during WWII and was very much at home with American culture and customs, both his wife, Zabel, and his mother-in-law, Angel, have kept to the old ways and are suspicious of life outside the Armenian ghetto. After the war, Abe and Andy inherit a small tract of rich farmland in California’s Central Valley and try to make a success of farming tomatoes. Though the land is good, the harvests are bad during their first years, and they soon find themselves in need of money to keep the operation going. In order to qualify for a GI Bill loan, Andy agrees to have the entire property put in Abe’s name, and the two borrow enough money to plant vineyards (in order to take advantage of the burgeoning demand for California wine). At first, Andy and Abe live together on the farm, but there are tensions between Andy and Zabel—tensions that only increase when Andy begins to date an Egyptian-American named Kareen. After Andy marries Kareen and moves out, Zabel tries to convince Abe to oust Andy from the vineyard altogether and claim it as his own. Where are Abe’s true loyalties—with his wife or with his brother?
An honorable failure: Awkwardly told, too long, and much too concerned with the smaller details of farm life—yet a touching and very real story nevertheless.