A tragic and beautiful story that manages to retain a wise and hopeful tone.



At the dawn of World War I, two brothers fight for survival in the midst of the Armenian genocide in Mekaelian’s debut novel.

In 1971, the Hagopian family gathers at a Chicago hospital after one of its elders has a stroke. Vartan Hagopian is a professor in his 70s who began his life in Armenia and now may end it in a hospital bed. A doctor tells the family that Vartan called out for a girl named Nadia during the attack that felled him. The name brings up painful memories for his slightly younger brother, Armen, who decides to tell the assembled family members the story of what he and his sibling lived through years ago. The sweeping tale begins in 1913 on the Hagopian family farm, located in the shadow of the Taurus Mountains along the Euphrates River. With the sultan of the Ottoman Empire deposed and the Young Turks in power, Armenians have been promised more equality under the law. Armen’s close-knit Armenian community lives alongside Turks and Kurds in relative peace. The future looks bright to teenage Armen and Vartan, who spend their evenings gazing at constellations. Slowly, though, it becomes clear that the government is overtaxing Armenians and brutally enforcing the practice with violence. Vartan and Armen’s father vows to stay, but as World War I breaks out, circumstances deteriorate, and Armen must find bravery far beyond his years. The most impressive aspect of Mekaelian’s historical tale is how it weaves together so many aspects of Armenian oppression into one family’s story without seeming implausible. The author carefully depicts Kharpert as a pastoral place that also becomes the setting of the worst things that humanity can offer, including forced assimilation, deportation, and outright slaughter. The sensible, memorable characters have an understandable dedication to their territory, and although the subject matter becomes quite bleak, the writing never does. The author shows Armen as a bright, humorous, hardworking teenager faced with unthinkable realities, and the wellsprings of courage that he draws from are seemingly limitless.

A tragic and beautiful story that manages to retain a wise and hopeful tone.

Pub Date: April 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-38516-6

Page Count: 436

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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