A young Turkish man journeys back in time and across continents in search of a stranger who will forever alter the way he sees himself, his family and his country.
When Orhan’s brilliant and eccentric grandfather—a man who built a dynasty out of making kilim rugs—is found dead, submerged in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But his grandfather’s will raises more questions than answers. Kemal has left the family estate to a stranger, thousands of miles away, an aging woman in an Armenian retirement home in Los Angeles. Her existence and secrecy about her past only deepen the mystery of why Orhan’s grandfather would have willed their home in Turkey to an unknown woman rather than to his own son or grandson.
Left with only Kemal’s ancient sketchbook and intent on righting this injustice, Orhan boards a plane to Los Angeles. There, over many meetings, he will not only unearth the story that 87-year-old Seda so closely guards, but discover that Seda’s past now threatens to unravel his future. It’s a story that, if told, has the power to undo the legacy upon which his family is built.
Moving back and forth in time, between the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the 1990s, Orhan’s Inheritance is a story of passionate love, unspeakable horrors, incredible resilience, and the hidden stories that haunt a family.
Orhan's Inheritance is shortlisted for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was long listed for the Center For Fiction First Book Prize. Aline Ohanesian grew up in Northridge California and currently lives in San Juan Capistrano with her husband and two sons. Orhan's Inheritance is her first novel.
The first time I heard of the Armenian Genocide was when I read the Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian and at the time I wondered how I had come that far in life without having heard of it . Just recently in the news , I saw that there were commemoration of the one hundred anniversary of this horrific time in history and I thought it was about time that some public attention and remembrance was paid to the 1.5 million Armenians who were killed or sent to their death by being deported into the Syrian desert around WWI .
Inspired by her grandmother's story , Aline Ohanesian tells the story of survival amid starvation, brutality, rape , death that this people were made to suffer. The novel doesn't start out with the history we will come to know but it begins in 1990 with a young Turkish man Orhan who is trying to uncover the secrets of his newly deceased grandfather's past . He comes to the United States and meets Seda , a ninety year woman in an Armenian nursing home . Thus the alternating narratives begin as Seda's takes us back to Turkey in 1915 and the horrors come to life . What also comes to life is the strength of family and a beautiful love story.
I'm not sure if Aline Ohanesian's grandmother is living or not but I'm sure that with this debut novel she has definitely made her grandmother proud .
At the outbreak of WWI it was estimated that 1.7 million Armenians lived peacefully in Turkey but by the end of the war less than 300,000 remained. The Armenians living in Turkey were generally well educated and wealthier than their Turkish neighbours but worst of all they were Christian. When Turkey entered WWI in 1914 as an ally of Germany, they received Germany's support to round up the Armenians, strip them of their homes and belongings, kill the men and march the women and children to the Syrian desert where most of them perished of starvation and dehydration.
In this accomplished debut novel, the author tells the story of one Armenian family living in Turkey at the time of the genocide. The story opens in 1990 with Orhan Türkoğlu, a young Turkish man working in the family kilim rug export business in Istanbul who has returned to his family home in Sivas for his grandfather Kemal's funeral. When Kemal's will is read, Orhan's father Mustafa is furious to find that Kemal has not only left the business to Orhan but bequethed his house to an unknown Armenian woman, Seda Melkonian, living in a Californian nursing home. Orhan is then sent to California to find out who this woman is and to ask her to sign over the deeds to the house to Mustafa.
Orhan knows little about the fate of the Turkish Armenians during the war and is astounded to hear the stories of cruelty and degradation that Seda and the other residents of the nursing home have to tell. What emerges is a tragic love story as well as one of survival against overwhelming odds. Orhan discovers that the past cannot be conveniently forgotten but resonates into the future with implications for him and his family. This is a beautifully written, heart breaking story that will resonate long after reading the book.
With thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for a copy of this book to read and review
I learned of the Armenian Genocide through Chris Bohjallian’s novel, “The Sandcastle Girls”. For those who’ve read that awesome novel, you will really enjoy “Orhan’s Inheritance”. This historical fiction novel has an incredible story and is written well making it an unforgettable read. “Orhan’s Inheritance” is an intriguing story about family, and what one would do under unspeakable circumstances.
As the name implies, Orhan’s grandfather dies and leaves an unusual inheritance to Orhan (based on Turkish law, which states that succession of wealth is to be passed from father to son directly). Orhan’s grandfather gave the bulk of the estate to Orhan and the family home to an unknown American woman. Orhan sets out to meet this woman and to try to discern why his grandfather provided such an unusual Estate.
Orhan has had a few skirmishes with the law in Turkey. He understands that his Country falls short on many fronts, but finds his interaction with the American woman to be bewildering in discovering accusations of Turkey’s genocide against Armenian people in the early 1900’s. In his schooling, he’s never heard of such atrocities.
The story tracks from 1990 to 1915 and back again to 1990, and so forth. The reader learns the story first from the present (1990) and the memories of those who were around in 1915. The time line of the story is easy to follow, the Turkish names can be difficult to follow and remember. I needed to write them down to remember who was related to whom.
Aline Ohanesian provides a fair account of the confusion of what was happening during that time period. Common people were left in the dark when the Armenian’s were “relocated”. Few understood what was really happening. The cruelty of war is shown on both sides of the common folk.
The story alone merits 5 stars, the beautiful writing seals the deal. Tid bits, such as:
~we are not what is done to us. ~the quality of gold is distinguished by flames an the quality of humans through misfortune. ~All of life, Orhan realizes, is a story within a story; how we choose to listen and which words we choose to speak make all the difference.
This will be on many “Best of 2015” lists. I highly recommend this outstanding novel.
"THEY FOUND HIM inside one of seventeen cauldrons in the courtyard, steeping in an indigo dye two shades darker than the summer sky."
With one of the most startling opening lines I think I've ever read, this debut novel by Aline Ohanesian immediately captured my attention, and managed to maintain it through a story of the Armenian genocide, to the end.
In the present day, Orhan Türkoğlu, the young Turkish manager of his grandfather's successful kilim business, goes to the USA to find out why his grandfather has left the family home to a stranger in his will. The stranger is Seda Melkonian, an intellectually sharp but reticent woman seeing out her twilight years in a care facility for aged Armenians, from where the past is impossible to escape. While Seda is only too willing to sign over her rights to the property, she is much less forthcoming in giving Orhan the answers to his questions.
Ohanesian takes us back to WWI, where the childhood friendship between Kemal and Lucine is beginning to turn into something more, before they are separated by the Armenian 'deportations' from Turkey into the Syrian desert. The circumstances of the deportees become increasingly more desperate, and the narrative necessarily more graphic, as the journey progresses. One passage that stopped me in my tracks concerned a woman giving birth by the side of the road, with the Turkish gendarmes impatiently urging her to get on with it. They soon tire of waiting and take action to resolve the matter, and get the deportees marching again.
This is a novel of love, loss and family secrets. It taught me a lot about the Armenian genocide. Towards the end I felt it ran out of steam, with the big secret revealed in just a few paragraphs (and not really very explicitly), so I probably would have preferred it to be a bit longer.
ORHAN MAKES HIS way back to the sea of mauve and green that is the reception area. Sitting down, he sinks so deep into one of the couches that he swears he can suddenly feel the weight of a century’s worth of deception and longing bearing down on his shoulders.
That's kind of how I felt at the end, too, but in a good, more informed way.
A Turkish grandfather has died, his financial dynasty and possessions due to be bequeathed to the small family impatiently awaiting them. Yet when his will is read, a name is unearthed that sets his inheritors reeling and launches his grandson on a journey half a world away, to a small assisted-living facility and the silent old woman who appears to possess the hidden truths of his ancestral line, truths that have tormented her throughout her lifetime.
When the past wells up inside her, Seda knows not to let it out. "I can't remember," she tells those who ask. When the river of words comes billowing out, it poisons everything. It taints the present with the blood and tears of the past. She wouldn't mind the forgetting that comes with age, but whatever is eating at her brain is only wiping out the freshest of memories. It leaves the undigested past alone, lets it fester, decomposing in her mind. Despite her best efforts, the scents and visions of her girlhood come bubbling up to the surface. Yesterday, she thought she smelled pistachios and almost threw up her lunch.
This is a sad tale, evocatively written, exploring the personal cost of the clash between the Turks and the Armenians, and the generational grief it has engendered. Ohanesian is probing a wound here, and she is methodical in her approach. That choice gifts her story with a dark sort of relentlessness. The miseries unfold like blossoms on her ancient mulberry tree - life, death, sacrifice, and the many tortures in-between - you'll need a bit of a stout heart to accommodate the heft of it.
"It was not war. It was most certainly massacre and genocide, something the world must remember... We will always reject any attempt to erase its record, even for some political advantage."
----Yossi Beilin, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister
According to Wiki, The Armenian Genocide, carried out during and after World War I, was the Turkish Ottoman government's systematic extermination of its minority Armenian population which approximates to almost 1.5 million.
Aline Ohanesian, an Armenian authors, pens a thoroughly spellbinding as well as completely heart-breaking novel, Orhan's Inheritance which centers around the timeline and horrific period of Armenian Genocide in the year of 1915 through an enriching and soulful story of Orhan, who is a young Turkish man, searches for the pieces of his family past after his grandfather leaves their family home to a mysterious woman.
When Orhan’s brilliant and eccentric grandfather Kemal—a man who built a dynasty out of making kilim rugs—is found dead, submerged in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But Kemal’s will raises more questions than it answers. He has left the family estate to a stranger thousands of miles away, an aging woman in an Armenian retirement home in Los Angeles. Her existence and secrecy about her past only deepen the mystery of why Orhan’s grandfather willed his home in Turkey to an unknown woman rather than to his own son or grandson.
Left with only Kemal’s ancient sketchbook and intent on righting this injustice, Orhan boards a plane to Los Angeles. There he will not only unearth the story that eighty-seven-year-old Seda so closely guards but discover that Seda’s past now threatens to unravel his future. Her story, if told, has the power to undo the legacy upon which his family has been built.
Moving back and forth in time, between the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the 1990s, Orhan’s Inheritance is a story of passionate love, unspeakable horrors, incredible resilience, and the hidden stories that can haunt a family for generations.
Orhan Turkoglu, a young Turkish man, returns to his hometown, when his grandfather, Kemal's sad and mysterious death reaches him. Soon Orhan finds his name as someone who have acquired all the family business instead of his father, and also his family home where his father and Aunt Fatma lived with his grandfather was given to a mysterious lady named, Seda Melkonian, following which Orhan embarks upon a journey to LA to an old age home to rightfully and legally take back his family home from that woman by offering her money. That's all he expected the journey should be, instead it opened a hell lot of family secrets kept hidden under their family home's mulberry tree. Seda's story run parralelly with that of Orhan's where Seda accounts her childhood, and her connection with Kemal, thus gradually filling the gaps of mysteries in the readers' minds as well in Orhan's mind.
The story wavers between two timeline- 1915 and 1990, and the author have skillfully as well as strikingly captured those two significant time periods of history, especially the 1915 timeline, when Armenian Genocide made a mark on the pages of history book with it's horrific circumstances, and the author have graphically as well as intricately layered that time when the Armenian women and children were deported to the Syrian desert without a drop of water or food, and how the Turkish soldiers occasionally used to rape some women and kill the elderly on their journey. Not only the graphic details are brought out by the author, but also she have attached lots of emotions while narrating those moments thus making the readers feel the sharp taste of the pain on their hearts.
The writing is absolutely flawless and that which bears a strong sense of evocative emotions and pain through her carefully chosen words. The author's eloquence is evident from her prose and her engaging narrative style. The to-and-fro swaying storyline doesn't leave the readers confused with the events as the author have strongly depicted both the story with lots of momentum and passion.
The characters, which the readers will feel a deep sense of bond and love for their pain and happiness, are strongly developed and portrayed, and their demeanor, fashion, POV, everything matches with respect to the time. There is a beautiful love story heaped under layers of political war and hatred, though the war separated the Turks from the Armenian Christians, the author bonded them with her love story, that will only feel the readers' heart with gratitude, warmth and respect. In a nutshell, both Seda and Orhan, the two protagonists of the story, are bound to leave an impressionistic mark upon the readers' minds.
The backdrop of the story is something which sets the mood of the authors right into the core of the story. Both Turkey's golden as well as grayish skyline perfectly and vividly depicted in the background. From the food to the lifestyle of then and now with a stark contrast are sharply featured in the back drop, that captivates the readers' minds completely.
The author instils the idea into her readers' minds that past is something that we need to embrace to have a better future and like Orhan we need to give respect to it, so that we can see the new dawn and this story justifies this message strongly.
Verdict: A must-read novel to understand and value your family past and the sacrifices made for it's betterment and that which is sure to keep you gripped till the very last page.
Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Aline Ohanesian, for providing me with a copy of her book, in return for an honest review.
A nice debut novel, based on the true stories of the author’s grandmother and the survivors of the deportation and ethnic purging of the Armenian minority occurred in 1915 under the Ottoman government. It’s a sad story about a time period and place (Anatolia, a region of Turkey) which I wanted to know more about. This novel prompted me to research the Armenian genocide, which Turkish government refuses to acknowledge to this day. What happened to the Ottoman Armenians just over 100 years ago is a controversial topic, a precursor of the holocaust in WWII, but while the latter is widely known and talked about, the Armenian pogrom is quietly swept under the carpet of history. In this novel, I appreciated how the emphasis of the story was on the women and the children (Fatma, Lucine/Seda, Bedros, Aram, Ahmet), in any conflict, they are the ones who and pay the highest price and bear the most. 3.5 stars
Fav. Quote: What your grandfather didn’t understand is that strength comes in different disguises. It does not always ride a mighty horse or wield a shiny sword. Sometimes we have to be like a riverbank, twisting and turning along with the earth, withstanding swells and currents. Enduring.
(from the author’s note) For me , the hidden stories of people, families and places, exotic or familiar, aren’t meant to be entombed in silence. When uncovered and shared, they make the world just a little bit better.
Ohanesian does a good job with this book. Her task is difficult: to dramatize and fictionalize the Armenian genocide in ways that are compelling without being exploitative or voyeuristic, as well as creating a narrative that is multidimensional and complex, that seeks to do more than simply present the accepted sequence of events as told by the Armenian diaspora.
Her Armenian characters argue and dither about the meaning of the genocide. Survivors question the health and utility of dwelling on the past. The Turkish characters are presented as more than mustache-twirling complicit murderers, but instead as vacillating, confused, sometimes beneficent to the refugees and survivors, sometimes taking advantage of them.
It's an interesting window into a time and place I know little about.
Sometimes I wished that Ohanesian didn't lean so heavily on cliched description and action-movie dialogue to convey her ideas. The main character often serves as a vehicle for facilitating discussion instead of living as a red-blooded person with his own wants.
Despite my fairly minor qualms, the story on the whole is a good one, and worth reading.
Reading about the Armenian Holocaust brings up in me much of what I know and have read about my people's Holocaust. The issues are generally similar - keeping the memory alive, survivors' guilt, repressing and not talking about the painful memories, and more. I think Ohanesian did a good job of relating the story of this horrid historical event to this generation, which may not have known anything about it. The writing is a little simplistic at times, and the structure of going back and forth in time a little annoying, but Ohanesian brings to life the customs and culture of the Turkish Armenians at the time of WWI, and creates believable characters which are easy to identify with. The character of Aunt Fatma is especially endearing and appreciable. All in all, this is a readable novel, engrossing and moving, which gives you the added value of learning more about a less well known piece of history and culture.
The author is trying to accomplish several things at the same time, unfortunately the book ends up touching upon many interesting points only superficially, not developing any depth in the characters or in the relationships. There is the history, the way that history is perceived and interpreted today from different perspectives, then there is the relationship between the main characters, then there is the intergenerational aspects, there is even more. I would have divided the story into two books, like a sequel maybe, so that a deeper reflection would be possible. Writing historical fiction is especially challenging on a subject which receives more scholarly attention recently, mainly in the form of oral history.
Remarkable book written by an author who has the qualities of Chris Bohjalian. It stretches our beliefs and forces us to see through the veils of our supposed humanity. Somehow we still do not understand that life offers enough to share with all others. Instead in the name of religion our greed leads men to wipe out other humans and steal what is only material. But what is stolen is humanity itself.
"My mother nursed me with mother's milk but also with sorrows. It flowed from her heart to her breast, into my insides where it probably still rests. She herself had ingested the same from her mother. They call it transgenerational grief now. We call it being Armenian."
Orhan Türkoglu discovers that his beloved grandfather has bequeathed the family home in Sivas, Turkey to an unknown woman in Los Angeles. He travels there to find her in a rest home for aged Armenians and gradually unravels pieces of family and Turkey's history which has never been acknowledged.
The story moves effortlessly between 1990, its modern perspective through Orhan's eyes, and back to 1915 in Turkey when the Ottoman Empire was crumbling and had allied itself with Germany in WWI. No longer a powerful caliphate, the government of the New Turks scapegoated the historically wealthier Armenians, traders of the ages from path of the famous Silk Road, as well as a from a country which was variably under the rule of others due to its strategic position. (It is now in the Russian Federation.). The 1.7 million Armenians in Muslim Turkey were also part of the oldest branch of Christianity, which was always a source of conflict.
"Orhan's Inheritance" is a moving tale. The history entwined around his family members and that of Seda is told within emotions, sensations, colour - fitting for the families of rug dyers and weavers, and Orhan who was once a photographer. The carnage of the genocide which left only 300,000 Armenians alive is not detailed graphically, but the impressions of one person imprint us with the fear, disaster and loss of this terrible time. Orhan inherits his country's treatment of the Armenians and further knowledge which displaces him, acutely.
To know is to come to terms with that knowledge, to resolve, to build and to hope. The novel ends with that as the ongoing task for its characters, open-ended.
* Footnote: I knew very little about this history. This book led to more research, to the Armenian modern efforts to gain recognition, to the Russo/Greek conflicts prior to 1914 with the Ottoman Empire in which millions of Muslims were massacred, dispossessed and displaced and immigrated to Anatolia (Turkey), huge unemployment as a result in Turkey, a historical fear and animosity of Christianity, missionaries, insurgents and Russia. The short-sighted carving up of the Middle East after WWI by the British and French to neutralize the re-emergence of the Ottoman Empire is considered to be a root cause of unrest there now. The issues are horribly complex. http://lostislamichistory.com/how-the...
Beautifully written and superbly edited this multi-layered tale alternates between Orhan's quest for truth in the 1990's with Kemel and the Meltonian family's tribulations during the Turkish purge of Armenians in 1915.
When Orhan's grandfather's will is read ripples of rage emanate from Orhan's father, Mustafa who is omitted from the will. Even though this is sensible, Mustafa will ruin the inheritance, is is against Sharia law to skip the son for the grandson. Mustafa will contest the will and waste what Kemel and Orhan have built. Not only has Orhan been named in the will but a stranger, Seda Meltonian is given the house the family has lived in since Kemel was a young man.
It is left to Orhan to find the woman and have her return the family home to them. Clearly Kemel wants Orhan to learn something from her. What can this be and how will he get her to explain Kemel's reasoning?
That is the substance of the plot, the themes though, oh my. This story speaks so eloquently of the grief of the Armenian diaspora and the ignorance of contemporary Turkey- but also of human nature and how this same tragic tale in various iterations plays out in every corner of the world and how Orhan's casual ignorance and complacence is shared by us all.
“Orhan’s Inheritance” is an outstanding work of historical fiction focused on two time periods, the first being 1990 Los Angeles and the second being in 1915 Turkey at the height of the Armenian Genocide. Aline Ohanesian provides readers a beautifully crafted story that brings this little-known tragedy to life through a story based on the real-life experiences of her grandmother. Full review you can find on my blog: https://poetryofreading.blogspot.com/...
A debut novel about the genocide in Armenia. The story starts in 1990 when Orhan Turkoglu's grandfather, Kemal, dies and leaves the house to a woman, Seda (which means echo) Melkonian, whom Orhan's father Mustafa has never heard of. Orhan goes to Los Angeles to seek Seda's agreement to bequeath her inheritance of the home to Orhan so he can continue to run the family rug business making kilims, small prayer rugs. The book vascilates between 1915 and 1990. Seda (Lucine) is an eighty-seven year old woman living in an Armenian nursing home in Los Angeles who slowly tells her story of the genocide as the Armenian Christians were forced from their homes and massacred by the Turks. Lucine (Seda) survives and is hidden by Orhan's aunt Fatma. The story of Lucine, her father Hairig being executed, her mother Mairig losing her mind, her sister Anush being kidnapped by a Turkish officer during their march, her brother Bedros disappearing, and baby brother Aram dying in the river is sad. Their uncle Nazareth survives and finds Bedros in an orphanage and Lucine (now Seda) living with Fatma. Through Seda and her story recanted to Orhan, Mustafa finds the true identity of his mother, Fatma, who prostituted to survive during the war. Orhan realizes he has no legal right to the house nor business as it belonged to Lucine's family which was all stolen from them during the war. Seda wants to forget the past and its sorrows. Her niece, Ani (daughter of Bedros) wants to capture the history and anguish so people remember. Orhan's true inheritance is his understanding of the past and the history of his family. Fatma held the truth but never revealed it to anyone. The gaps in the story were two-fold: the reader doesn't know how or why Kemal died in the dye vat and since he knew where Seda/Lucine lived, she was the true love of his life, and he essentially stole her family property, why didn't he come forth with the truth to seek her out and return what was rightfully hers?
Remember how you felt reading A Thousand Splendid Suns , Cutting for Stone or The Art of Hearing Heartbeats ? How these books introduced you so totally and completely to another land, history and customs? How you fell in love with the characters and could feel their longing, love and pain?
Orhan's Inheritance did the very same thing for me. When Orhan's grandfather's Last Will and Testament is read the family learns the ancestral home will be given to an unknown woman. Orhan travels from Turkey to Los Angles in an attempt to learn why his grandfather would bequeath the family home to this woman and more importantly what her relationship was with his grandfather.
This is a story of great love, unimaginable sacrifice, resilience, and profound injustice. The Armenian Genocide, where approximately one and a half million people perished between 1915 and 1923, plays a significant historical role in this novel. This is a debut novel by author Aline Obanesian that will be someday be referred to as a "Classic".
Wow, this was very aspiring. My sister bought it for me and at the beginning I was very sceptical because I don't like books about Turkey. I just don't find them interesting enough. But first of all, this isn't a book about Turkish people, but about Armenians' suffering and genocide. I never even knew there was a genocide toward Armenians. I guess that isn't a well known fact. Which is very sad. I think the world has to know about wrongs that it permitted. Which this book gives in a way. It was very insightful and hurtful and sad but it was also intriguing. But I still feel like it missed some parts. Like how did Seda get in United States, what happened to Anush and their mother, how come Fatma ended up living with Kemal and many, many other questions. But it was still a great book. The suffering Armenians endured was uncalled for. I hate that in every war there's a certain kind of people that has to suffer the most. It's like people just love to watch others suffer. And I hate that we're like that. I can only imagine what would happen if another was begins....
Kemal, the owner of a successful Turkish factory making kilim rugs dies and leaves his grandson. Orhan, his business and to an Armenian woman, Seda, a house which formerly belonged to her family. They became part of the Death March to Syria in 1915. Of course Kemal's son Mustafa is angry that he has been passed over. Orhan travels to L.A. to talk to Seda, to find out Kemal's reasoning and to persuade the woman to sign the house over. The story jumps from present-day to the horrific events in 1915 back and forth. In the course of the story, we see the hellish conditions for the Armenians as the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating and through Seda's narration, we become privy to a closely-held family secret.
Aline Ohanesian’s novel ultimately is a meditation on the nature of restitution for human wrongdoings. What constitutes appropriate restitution: clear-eyed remembrance and preservation of the facts as they are known; acknowledgement by the perpetrators, including their decedents; acceptance and forgiveness by the injured; application of the most accurate names to events; the return of material things or their equivalents to the injured?
Orhan returns to his family’s village following the mysterious death of his grandfather, Kamal. Kamal’s unusual will leaves the family home to an unknown woman, Seda Melkonian. Orhan searches for her in order to ask her to forgo the bequest so that his father and aunt can continue to live in the house. He discovers an aged woman living quietly in a facility for elderly Armenians in California. Ohanesian uses Orhan’s need to understand Seda’s connection to his grandfather as the set piece for her novel’s exploration of the human toll that persecution by the Ottoman Turks took on Armenians during World War I. She follows two families, one Turkish and the other Armenian, and shifts settings between the 1990’s when Kamal died and 1915 when the Turks persecuted the Turkish Armenians. Ohanesian deftly manages this plot structure to create an engaging and largely unpredictable story although the sections on the removal of Armenians from Ottoman lands was much more effective than the more bland ones involving the family squabbles following Kamal’s death.
Ohanesian’s handling of this important subject does justice to the atrocities that accompanied the so-called deportation of Armenians by the Turks. Also she effectively manages the controversy where Armenians seek restitution and Turks insist that the Armenian assertions are baseless because wars claim victims indiscriminately. Ohanesian highlights this modern controversy using dialogue between Orhan and Ani, Seda’s activist niece. With the exception of Orhan’s father, Mustafa, the principal characters travel arcs through the story that reflect increased enlightenment about these issues.
This is an effective presentation of some complex questions that still resonate today, but it lacks sufficient detail in a number of areas to fully understand characters and events. The strange circumstances surrounding Kamal’s death are unclear. They suggest suicide but this is not explicit and his psychological makeup at the time of his death seems obscure. Orhan’s backstory of photography, arrest, torture and exile to Germany seems too important to be treated as lightly as it is in the novel. Orhan is estranged from Mustafa. Does this have religious, cultural or political connotations? The love story between Kamal and Lucine is important to the plot but was handled superficially and lacks emotional involvement. Lucine’s original rejection of Kamal seems abrupt and indeed curious.
It is a truism that history can be interpreted from varying perspectives. Why did the US invade Iraq? If you are a Republican, it was because of faulty intelligence; if you are a Democrat, it was because the administration “cooked the books.” This story is clearly being told from an Armenian perspective. Without exception, the Turkish soldiers conducting the deportation lack nuance. They are all brutes. Except for Aunt Fatma, who has many humane attributes, Turks are portrayed badly while the Armenian characters are generally beneficent. Racism, envy and demonetization of an entire ethnic class did occur, but the origins of these Turkish attitudes toward the Armenian minority were not well explored in the novel. Finally, unbelievable coincidences abound in the story and detract from enjoying its spell. Lucie serendipitously finds Fatma’s inn and is rescued by her; looking for prostitutes, Kamal and his friend also discover Fatma’s inn and there they discovers Lucine; after being almost totally absent throughout the novel, Lucine’s uncle Nazereth returns to rescue her and her brother.
So many war novels, in an effort to convey the massive scale of death and destruction in wartime, end up bogging themselves down with too many characters, too many storylines, too many tragic details. It’s unfortunate, because this oversaturation leads to the opposite effect the authors had in mind—a reader can’t feel the full impact of events, can’t empathize as deeply, because the barrage of pain is just too much. It washes over instead of sinking in.
The brilliance of Orhan’s Inheritance is in its razor-fine focus on two small families. Few historical events are as hugely devastating as genocide, and if anything could threaten to overwhelm a narrative, it’s the attempted annihilation of Armenians during World War I. But Ohanesian insists on limiting her story, a choice that not only lets us feel keenly the experiences of her characters, but then invites us to imagine all the other thousands of similar stories that aren’t encapsulated within the novel. Paradoxically, it’s this method of scaling down that ultimately makes Orhan’s Inheritance a universal story of love, loss, and forgiveness.
The book opens in 1990 Turkey, where a young man named Orhan’s grandfather has just died. His death brings with it an unwelcome surprise: he has bequeathed their family home to a stranger, specifically an old woman named Seda who lives in America. Orhan immediately makes plans to travel to the US to meet this Seda and firmly inform her that he has no intention of giving up his birthright.
Of course, as you can probably guess, it won’t be that simple. Orhan loved and respected his grandfather, and the knowledge that his Dede wouldn’t have done this odd thing without a good reason lingers in the back of his mind. Who is Seda? How did she know Orhan’s grandfather? To reveal the answers, Ohanesian flashes back to 1915, when the world was at war and Turks and Armenians became enemies—and Orhan’s grandfather was just a teenage boy named Kemal.
Even in the flashback structure Ohanesian is restrained—the sections are long, giving the reader enough time to sink into each timeline without the distraction of frequent transitions. In less capable hands, this would have been compelling historical fiction; thanks to Ohanesian’s skillful artistic choices, it’s a powerful emotional experience, too. Highly recommended.
Orhan’s grandfather Kemal built a dynasty out of making kilim rugs. When he dies, his will bypasses his only son and Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But, Kemal leaves the family home to a woman no one has heard of – Seda Melkonian, an Armenian woman living in a Los Angeles retirement home. Orhan travels to California to meet with Seda and try to discover her connection to his family. Seda and Kemal’s story of young love across religious and cultural taboos unfolds against the backdrop of World War I and the Armenian genocide.
The novel moves back and forth between 1990s and the last days of the Ottoman empire. There are not a lot of fiction books about World War I (as compared to WW II), and only a small number that deal with the Armenian genocide. So, this is an interesting and informative subject on which to focus. What people had to do to survive and how the trauma affected them forms the basis for a compelling story.
As Orhan meets with Seda to discover her connection to his family, he learns about events the world seems to have forgotten. However, Seda seems to want to forget about it. She has put those memories aside in order to live her life. Still the trauma haunts her. But Seda’s niece and others of her generation seem bent on exploring their families’ histories. It made me wonder when, or whether, one can ever let go of past wrongs. Must hate and rancor pass from generation to generation because one’s grandfather hurt the other’s grandfather?
Ani is angry with her aunt’s generation for not talking about their experiences during the war: ”You know, there’s no difference between withholding and lying, right?” Ani asks her aunt But she seems equally angry that Orhan, a Turk, would want to explore the exhibit and learn what happened from her aunt. It’s as if the events that occurred are the sole property of the descendants of the Armenian victims of that wartime atrocity. ”Is that what the exhibit is about? Finding a cure for your grief?” Orhan asks Ani.
Untangling the family connections is a daunting task and once he opens that box he may not like what he discovers. I believe that the journey to discovery changes the course of his life.
One of the most important books that reminds me of a cry, of a lament of thousand voices, mouffled throughout the history. A story of love, of curse, of family and death. Also of responsibility. How one must cope with sins of collective conscience? How to cope with the truth? With an echo of genocide? Beautifully written, subtle and intense at the same time. --- Do rąk czytelnika trafia niby opowieść o miłości, niby o rodzinnej tajemnicy, ale to tylko tło dla potwornej historii ludobójstwa, dla cierpienia, dla wszystkich Ormian, których wymordowano, których zraniono, których wygnano siłą, by sami zginęli w męczarniach. "Dziedzictwo Orchana" to kolejna zachęta do dialogu, do tego, by stanąć twarzą w twarz i przyznać się – na głos wymienić imiona i nazwiska, wykrzyczeć liczby, pokazać twarze. Aline Ohanesian robi to w subtelny, piękny sposób, wyciąga dłoń, pokazuje, że nie można ignorować faktów. Nawet jeśli fakty zdają się być bolesne. W końcu to wszystko wydarzyło się nie tak dawno temu, a historia niestety lubi zataczać koło.
I bought this book at a library book sale. I thought it sounded interesting and I liked the cover. It called to me.
This book is a debut novel. I liked the story very much and it was easy to read. It had a nice flow. It is a dual story line, with the main part of the book, set in 1915 Turkey and relates some of the horrors of the Armenian Christians' relocation and subsequent genocide, at the hands of the Turk government of the time. (It is not overly graphic, but there are some uncomfortable, brutal moments.) The present day timeline is 1990. The main character, Orhan, who is a Turk, is forced to go see a woman in Los Angeles, California, to get her to sign over the papers for his families' house and property that his grandfather left to her. No one in his family knows who she is, nor why Grandfather Dede, had included her in his will.
Ohanesian’s novel audaciously and articulately examines the complexity of transgenerational grief still looming from the Armenian Genocide. However, what truly marks the author’s fearlessness is her ability to view history from multiple perspectives. Orhan’s Inheritance illuminates two sides of a horrific and tumultuous era, revealing a century’s worth of fallout with tact and sincere passion. This is an important book arriving at a pivotal point in Armenian history. – Aram Mrjoian
I don't know how this book ended up on my TBR years ago, but I'm so glad that it did.
When Orhan's dede (grandfather) dies, Orhan inherits the vast majority of the will except for one small odd piece. The house in Turkey where his father and aunt have always lived has been left to an unknown woman in a nursing home in Los Angles. Orhan is determined to find out the mystery behind this. While uncovering this woman's link to his family he also learns about his countries sordid past involving an Armenian genocide in 1915. This was a beautiful tale of love, loss, survival, and the ties that bind us when all else fails.
È la prima volta che mi capita di leggere del genocidio armeno e grazie a questo libro ne so qualcosa in più, ma soprattutto ti spinge a voler approfondire l'argomento. Mi è piaciuto molto il modo in cui è stato scritto, tra passato e presente. È molto scorrevole e descrittivo, cosa che personalmente apprezzo sempre perché sembra di trovarsi realmente all'interno della storia. È coinvolgente e mi sento di consigliarlo :)
I found this book when searching for a novel on the Armenian genocide.
Beautifully written, Aline Ohanesian’s debut novel draws in readers from the first sentence. Upon news of the death of his grandfather, Orhan returns to the small Turkish town where he grew up to attend the service and reading of the will. To his delight (and his father’s indignation), Orhan’s grandfather, Kemal, declared, in violation of Turkish inheritance laws, that the family business will skip a generation and go to Orhan instead of his father. This pleasing news is quickly followed by frustration and confusion as the family learns that their home has been bequeathed to a stranger named Seda living in California. Orhan crosses the ocean to meet her and learn what her connection is to his family and their house.
Alternating between life when Kemal was a young man (in 1915) and the modern day (which takes place in 1990), we follow both Kemal and Seda (and other family members), and learn why their connection to each other lasted (however tenuously) beyond borders and throughout decades. 1915 is the year that changes both of their lives forever, the year that rips apart their worlds as Turks are pitted against Armenians against the backdrop of the first World War. This is the year that the Turkish government forced the Armenian minority into death marches that many consider the first modern genocide (though, even at the 100th anniversary, Turkey still rejects this term). "We don't say the g-word here," says my brother currently living in Turkey. When I first learned of the Armenian relocation, it sounded like the Trail of Tears. In the US, we don't call that genocide either.
Like Elie Wiesel’s Night this novel provokes questions about how human beings can commit such atrocities and how survivors live with horrors that haunt them throughout their lives. "Nothing about this war makes sense." It never does. Whenever I read stories or war or other human horrors, I am somehow searching for the answers to how we can be so horrible to each other? How can we so easily lose our humanity? There is no good answer. I know this. But I keep seeking one anyway.
While not overly graphic (and not gratuitous), the descriptions may be disturbing for sensitive readers. (There was one scene which depicted horribleness so bad I had to stop reading for the night as it left me panting and rocking for a solid minute before I could even cry. Afterwards I decided to only read the book at home, lest I get caught ugly crying in public.) Like all extraordinary things, this story (and the time it covers) is complicated. Read it with a mind open to learning about history that few of us learned in school, and – if you’re anything like me – with tissues nearby.