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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  319 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
As Zabelle's family assembles for her funeral in present-day Massachusetts, it becomes clear that her children hardly knew her. But as this alternatively comic and heartbreaking novel unfolds--beginning with Zabelle's survival of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey and her subsequent emigration to America for an arranged marriage--an unforgettable character emerges.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 1st 1999 by Harper Perennial (first published 1998)
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Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
A haunting tale of genocide, emigration and immigration examined through the experience of an Armenian woman caught between three continents and three generations. Most people are entirely unaware of the atrocities committed against the Armenian people in recent history -- I take that back, most people have never even heard of Armenia to begin with -- so this book is also a personal exegesis and seems to have been directly inspired by the author's own family history.
I have read several narratives of this horrifying period in Armenian history, but I have found that it is underrepresented in most accounts of genocide and war. Most of my reading on these topics has been focused on WW II and that Holocaust. I have noted that the generations which followed both abominations have tried to preserve and honor those who died and those who survived. Krikorian dealt with these atrocities for the Armenian people realistically but sensitively.

Zabelle survived the death
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
A wonderful book. It read much as i imagine the diary of a woman like Zabelle might actually read. She allowed herself to feel, a bit, what she actually felt deeply, hugely; because had she allowed herself that real emotional latitude, life's pains, disappointments, disasters, dearths would have been lethal. She was a survivor; first of the Armenian Genocide - hers of 1916 - but it went on for years - taking somewhere from 1-1.5 million Armenians, previously living at peace for untold generation ...more
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
What I enjoyed about this historical fiction is that it discusses the Armenian Genocide in a way that I could digest quickly and easily. So many of the non-fictional books which discuss the horrors of the genocide leave one feeling despair for the senseless and brutal deaths that occurred, but this book rather takes the reader on a journey that ends in hope and happiness. It is a beautiful story which can shed light on the life of a survivor of the Armenian genocide.
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
Reading this book is like reading someone's private diary. There's almost zero character development, plot, or, frankly, history (even though it's historical fiction), but it is an unbelievable page-turner!
Kathy Sebesta
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A part of 20th century I really didn't know much about, the Turkish slaughter of the Armenian people during WWI. I would like to think that the horrors of this story are truly fiction, but I know they weren't. It's a slim novel that flashes back and forth along Zabelle's life and it's done quite well. As usual for this technique it suffers a bit in straightening out the characters, but that's my only criticism. I would read Kricorian again.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was surprised at how interested I was in this tale. I read the entire thing in a day. It held my attention the entire time. I can't think how it could be made better. I considered giving it 5 stars, but I know a year from now it won't live in my memory the way those stories do to which I give that extra star. (Harry Potter, Tolkien, Anne Rice's vampires and witches, 1984, The Handmaid's Tale, Fahrenheit 451, The Brothers Karamazov, Harrison Bergeron, Something Wicked this Way Comes, Living My ...more
Nora Murad
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
This novel-told-as-memoir of one Armenian woman's story gives touching insight into how the Armenian genocide propelled a traditional community into Watertown, Massachusetts, and how their identities, relationships and dreams were shaped by culture and history. Simply written, you come to love the characters and care about what happens to them, realizing that all our life stories have deeper meaning that we usually grant them. As someone who lived in Watertown, the places and situations are vivi ...more
Lisa Savage
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great women's history of Armenian immigrants to New England in the early 20th century. Nice job of layering the stories of the different generations and time periods. I am eagerly awaiting my copy of All The Light There Was which is Kircorian's lates novel. It's about Armenian families living in Paris under German occupation, and the advance chapter I read has stayed with me for months.
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fast read, great ethnic (Armenian) fiction. I never tire of reading the "American immigrant" story, it just never gets old. I was very sad about Zabelle's son Moses separating himself from her and the family, though. Also after comparing my mother-in-law with Zabelle's, I feel much better about mine!
Nataly Mariam Arakelian
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing, I couldn't put it down, I finished it in less than 24 hours. I truly recommend it, it's written beautifully, and as an Armenian I was over whelmed by everything, every detail, every word. Definitely one of those books that I don't mind reading again.
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
not particularly well written but an interesting story none the less.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be moving and touching. The author managed to seamlessly weave humor into a story that depicts human suffering. Because of my Armenian heritage and familiarity with the culture and history, the characters and events were exceptionally meaningful. I could not put this book down. Excellent read.
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it
I thought this would be just another book about the Armenian Genocide, but somehow it was both more and less than that at the same time. At first i was annoyed by the lack of facts about the genocide and how very small the author made it seem. But as I continued I was thankful for it. This is a tale of an immigrant family in Boston. Zabelle's, the narrator endured atrocious, inhumane acts and survived by the skin of her teeth to begin a new life in America with a husband she had never met and a ...more
Sep 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The story Zabelle is about a young girl who survives through the Armenian Genocide, loses her parents through the Genocide, and then leads a hard life in America with a busy husband. Zabelle is a young Armenian girl who goes through the Armenian Genocide. She has to walk through the hot dessert, where her baby brother, mother, grandmother, granfather, and father all die. She finds two kids that were from her old town. Then she is sent to an orphan house. She stays there until she is hired in a T ...more
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book you don't want to put down and that offers that first-hand account of a tragedy that everyone seems to be opinionated about, but (too?) few personal stories seem to follow from. Some criticize it from not being sufficiently 'historical', an unfair accusation because in hindsight it all appears to be crystal-clear (certainly for those presenting history as black and white) but in reality a family, simply being a pawn in a societal and political web, lives its own stories. A story undoubted ...more
Jan 29, 2012 rated it liked it
"It was the first time for me to read about the Armenian genocide. I felt sorry for them and sorry for us Palestinians. We've been going through almost the same experience with diaspora, Nakbah, genocides like Sabrah & Shatila, Deir Yaseen, etc .. all because of the Israeli occupation. I felt every single word. I loved Zabelle, liked the character of Arsinee very much, and the harmony between both. I just didn't like when Zabelle tried to scare her daughter Joy with the idea of treating her ...more
Jan 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: cascade
Kricorian's simple style is arresting and vivid for the early sections of the book, describing one young girl's experience of the Armenian holocaust by the Turks, but as the book progresses to a linear narrative of the rest of Zabelle's life, the simplicity becomes a liability. The story begins to feel almost like a resume of Zabelle's important life moments - a stop at the birth of each child, a stop at their weddings, a stop at her husband's death.. So although easy to read and interesting, th ...more
Lisa Savage
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always loved immigration stories and this is a good one. A woman who sees far too much horror in youth but makes a life for herself in the new country in spite of it, Zabelle is an appealing character who is neither maudlin nor saintly. This is the type of book you just don't want to put down. Kricorian's writing style is deceptively simple; she packs a lot of meaning into her clean, elegant sentences.
Pamela Olson
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Lovely book about an Armenian woman who escapes Turkish atrocities to settle in New England with a husband who barely tolerates her and an imperious mother-in-law. A touching and engaging account of exile, growing up and growing older, family life, and the disconnect between generations among immigrants with many funny and memorable scenes.
علا عنان
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've really enjoyed reading this novel. Having to know about the Armenian people in such a lovely way is a great inspiration for me as a Palestinian. Thank you Nancy Kricorian for letting us know her people's story.
Nov 28, 2007 rated it liked it
This is such a charming book. It chronicles the sentiment and horror of the "old country" coupled with the uncertainty that comes with forced assimilation into the new world. It's a dazzling portrait of a woman's life from start to finish. (or finish to start?)
Feb 04, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Erin Webber
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing novel. Definitely on my short list of books to re-read.
Aug 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2006-2010
I was not expecting to like this book, but once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. The writing was simple but the story was amazing.
Feb 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
About the Armenian Holocaust, very beautiful. It's another one of those novels that I like to read once a year. I know it's not a "classic", but I really like it.
Susan Gardner
Feb 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Lovely story with personal threads of the protagonists woven into the history of the Armenian diaspora.
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Mediocre and very basic prose
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2011
had interesting parts but also very long parts. expected a different story. dont see that the past had a big influence on her.
Israa Suliman
Jul 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Zabelle's tale truly impresses me.
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Nancy Kricorian is a New York City-based writer and activist. She is the author of the novels Zabelle, Dreams of Bread and Fire, and most recently All The Light There Was, which is set in the Armenian community of Paris during World War II. She participated in the 2010 Palestine Festival of Literature, and taught at the Palestine Writing Workshop in Birzeit in 2011. Kricorian was the Fall 2015 Wri ...more

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“On good days I felt like a chrysalis from which a butterfly had emerged, and on bad days I felt like a chewing-gum wrapper someone had thrown in the hedges.” 4 likes
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