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Armenian landscape sets tone

War and romance weave magical read

By Nicholas Addison Thomas

For The Free Lance–Star

IN “The Sandcastle Girls,” the latest from best-selling author Chris Bojalian, readers are invited to a sweeping love story that’ll have you ordering a Costco quantity of Kleenex. Bojalian is in perfect form in this novel about romance, war and everything in between.

The story opens with Elizabeth Endicott, a college graduate and novice nurse. After her father donated money to the Friends of Armenia, the two visit Syria and discover despair at the hands of Muslim Turks—the 1915–16 genocide of Christian Armenians serves as a backdrop here. Almost instantly, the  naïveté of Elizabeth and her father is shattered as they engage the battered refugees and offer assistance.

Elizabeth is committed to helping out, but her focus is derailed when she meets Armen, an engineer who lost his wife and infant. She soon discovers that much like war, love overwhelms. When Elizabeth decides to stay in Syria and Armen joins the British Army, letters tell the story of their growing romance. Flash forward to present day, where novelist Laura Petrosian finds a photo of her grandmother, Elizabeth, and realizes that some secrets go unshared.

Toggling between two eras, Bojalian paints a vivid portrayal of love and pain and the strength to survive each. At once heartbreaking and hopeful, “The Sandcastle Girls” is a mesmerizing work of historical fiction influenced by the author’s heritage and driven by a romance so beautiful and believable it hurts.

Nicholas Addison Thomas  is a freelance writer in Fredericksburg.


By Chris Bojalian

(Doubleday, $25.95, 320 pp.)


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