After escaping from forced prostitution, 18-year-old Lara Galian wants to move on with her life. She can’t. Along with Edik, an expatriate Armenian journalist, she gets involved again with the criminal family that abducted her. Readers see more of the Eastern European crime world than Lara does thanks to a narrative point of view that changes for each chapter; fortunately, the plot races along, propelled by the self-destructive nature of oligarchs vying to seize control of an illegal enterprise. Zanoyan deals plausibly with Lara’s emotions as she readjusts to life in Armenia and freedom, particularly in the evolution of her relationship with Ahmed, the Dubai aristocrat who bought her as a concubine but won her sympathy through his relatively kind treatment. Additionally, the narrative becomes a sharply evocative portrayal of rural Armenia, from the descriptions of “traditional yoghurt soup with wheat and mint” and the Galian family’s two-room house to the sweeping views from Edik’s mountain retreat. The prose is weaker, however, in awkward phrases—“using the catchall local phrase meaning, depending on context, ‘okay, fine’ or ‘fine, that’s enough’ or ‘okay, I get it’ or any number of similar expressions”—that pop up frequently but not often enough to detract from the page-turning narrative. The novel’s ending manages to be both satisfying and believable, with loose ends resolved and a sense of justice though without the impression that Lara’s world is suddenly safe. Those who haven’t read A Place Far Away may find themselves looking for more detailed explanations of several events that are often referenced here, but on the whole, newcomers will be able to follow and enjoy the sequel without having read the original.
A thoughtful novel that effectively combines a thriller’s pace with a ripped-from-the-headlines topic.