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Dervishes: A Novel
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Dervishes: A Novel

3.11 of 5 stars 3.11  ·  rating details  ·  129 ratings  ·  37 reviews
The richly textured, panoramic story of an American mother and daughter stuck in the expatriate community of Ankara, Turkey, in 1975--each of them trying to discover a life in the larger world, each in way over her head



When she is twelve years old, Canada moves with her mother and father to Ankara, Turkey, where her father has been stationed by the government. It is 1975--
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ebook, 320 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by Picador (first published February 1st 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Sandra Novack
I'm not going to give plot details, because one reviewer here did a fine job of giving an overview already. Beth Helms was in my MFA program, and I know her to be a very austere writer with sparkling prose. This is a book to read, I think, if you love language, attention to setting and atmosphere, and fluid prose. I think it's also of structural interest to writers; I admire quite a bit the overall shape--fluctuating between Canada's past tense chapters and Grace's present tense.

I've never known
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Rebecca
I just didn't enjoy this book. I picked it up when the author spoke at our library a few years ago, and finally got around to reading it, and I just found it a chore to get through. I hate stories (books or movies) where all the drama is artificially created because the characters won't just TALK to each other, and that was the whole premise of this book, basically. Everyone had secrets and no one would say what they were thinking, and so many of the problems could have just been solved if the p ...more
Savannah
How on earth this thing got published, I have no idea. A terrible book, badly written, with no plot. The author herself has admitted "it's about nothing." It probably got published because of the overly glowing review given by Sara Gruen--which Gruen herself admits she never gave. Don't waste your money on this pathetic excuse for a book. The author herself admits "it's the only book I've got in me, and will never write another one." Thank goodness for small favors.
Susan Hester
I was underwhelmed. Expected richer cultural information about Turkey. Rather, it was a book which surrounded a family stationed in Ankara during the cold war. Dad has a mysterious job with the State Dept or the CIA; Mom is frustrated, has an affair; daughter, often the narrator, goes through a lot of the growing up scenarios, most of which are typical and not so interesting.
Cindy
I enjoyed this story a great deal, but felt that the ending was a bit rushed which is why I didn't give it a higher rating. In a way, Dervishes is your classic "fish out of water" tale. The main character, Grace, seems out of place both geographically, as this novel is set in Turkey in the mid 70s, as well as within her own family. As the wife of a diplomat, she is flung into the world of "society wives", where the social norms are not what I would consider standard. In addition, she never manag ...more
Katie Abbott Harris
Set in Turkey during the 1970s, this historical fiction novel tells of an American family who has been transferred to Turkey for a diplomatic post. The father is an Ambassador who spends most of his time away from his family on secretive and shady assignments. The family is used to moving frequently, having to constantly adapt to the new communities, surroundings, and languages. The perspective alternates between mother and daughter; Canada is a 12-year-old girl, used to making new friends, and ...more
Tim
There's a big difference between writing well and telling a good story; Beth Helms does the former and not the latter so much in "Dervishes."

The novel, centering on an American couple and their daughter in Turkey, the latest stop in a series of government jobs for the patriarch, only rarely catches fire. Helms, who was, in fact, in a situation in Turkey like the teenage daughter of the novel, makes the setting believable but readers do not feel immersed in the culture. The girl explores her part
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Liz
I expected a little bit more about dervishes, but at least this book did give a glimpse of a part of life in Turkey. I did get caught up in the life of Canada and her mother Grace. The story mainly took place in Ankara, Turkey and was told in alternating chapters from Canada and Grace's perspectives (Canada being the preteen daughter and Grace is her mother). Things get rather convoluted in their lives before falling apart. Since the story is based on their perspectives, I am not sure what was t ...more
Mitzi McMahon
I tried. I put it down and came back to it. But, in the end, I gave up. Got to page 74. Just too slow moving for me. There are a lot of details on setting and atmosphere but, for me, nothing on "story," nothing to hold my interest or move it forward.
Kallie
An excellent novel about the dangers of being naive, romantic, lacking self-awareness and undereducated, especially as an American living in 'the old world.' These perils unfold through the author's skill with scenic and story development, which heightens drama and suspense in a way that feels very real, free of melodrama yet truly shocking. I have spent a fair amount of time in Turkey and thought the Turkish character(s) beautifully written. Cultural- and self-deception are the subjects of mast ...more
Liz
Sometimes unfocused. Mother-daughter story line seemed played out and trite.
Amber
I enjoyed this book a lot. The setting and the characters were interesting and sympathetic. I was a little disappointed in the resolution; I didn't feel like the daughter's story was carried through to a satisfactory point. But the ending was engaging overall. The atmosphere of the book was probably my favorite thing about the book.
Mark
Jun 09, 2008 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Susan, Featherbooks
Tight, well written first novel which tells the dark and mysterious story of an American State Department family living in Ankara, Turkey in the 1970's. I enjoyed it not only for the detective story style, but for the view it provides both into being an expat. It brought back memories of Turkey and my Peace Corps stint.
Michelle
I enjoyed reading this - the characters were good and believable, there was enough mystery about what was happening in their lives - not everything was spelled out, predictable or obvious. And the glimpse into life as a traveling embassy family was interesting. But ultimately the resolution was unsatisfying.
eb
Some excellent writing here, and a few truly great metaphors. But Helm spent too much time polishing up her prose, and not enough thinking through crucial plot points. The revelations in the last 20 pages weren't exciting or shocking; they were fake and impossible to take seriously.
Kathleen
The descriptions of the setting and daily life in Turkey during the seventies is well done. I felt the author rushed the ending of the novel. Beth Helm leaves it up to the reader's imagination of what may have happened to Canada and her mother Grace.
Natasha
unsettling and disturbing the entire time. I felt like Helms was onto something but it didn't quite get there, perhaps because the characters just seem like bad people, so it's hard to relate. the writing style is vivid and honest, however.
Mckinley
Read it, thought it was ok but not great. Sort of coming of age. The "event" was underplayed - I didn't really get it as it effected the main character. Maybe that was the point. The consequences had little impact on her life in Turkey.
Angela
a haunting tale; I thought Beth Helms painted an exotic and mysterious picture of life in Ankara---a seemingly perfect mirror to life living abroad, especially given the time and political atmosphere depicted in her work.
Deirdre
Not even sure why I gave this two stars. Perhaps bc I finished it although it is short so that might be why I decided to plow through. Hateful characters. All of them. And boring.
Jean Little
I liked the book better in the first half with the second half seeming to drag out. The author didn't have enough character development for me to keep interested in the plot.
Noreen
I loved this book about a foreign service wife in Turkey, but would have loved to hear from my friends who were in the foreign service. I continue to try to force it on them.
Eloise
I kept feeling like the book should be more interesting than it was. It is two stories, mother and daughter, about their adventures in Turkey.
Tamara
Takes place in Turkey. Thought there would be more about Turkey but it's mostly about a girl and her melodramtic mother.
Cynthia
This book is a haunting one, exploring the failure of a mother to connect with her daughter and husband.
Heather
Beautifully written, very evocative of a certain time and space. I was a bit let down by the ending, though.
Shemsi
Kind of weird. Not what I was expecting. Also a little bit boring. But it was an interesting writing style.
Kristie
Excellent! Embassy wives...gossip...and an awkard daughter caught in the middle. Loved it!
Mandy
Good read, but sad in the end. Depressing lives of diplomat's families overseas.
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Beth Helms is the author of the story collection American Wives, which won the 2003 Iowa Short Fiction Award. She spent her childhood in Iran, Iraq, Germany, and Turkey, and now lives in upstate New York. Dervishes is her first novel.
More about Beth Helms...
American Wives

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