Chris Bohjalian (The Night Strangers; Midwives) introduces Laura Petrosian, a novelist usually focused on "domestic comedy about New Agey women on the social margins." Laura decides to learn how her paternal grandparents survived the Armenian genocide--the "Slaughter You Know Next to Nothing About"--and answer the question "How do a million and a half people die with nobody knowing?" She begins her research with 1915, the year her Bostonian grandmother, a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke, travelled to Syria to escape a suitable match with a well-to-do young man and to discover her own independent identity and help the "less fortunate." What she found was a recently widowed Armenian engineer with whom she quickly fell in love--even in the midst of a massacre of unimaginable proportions.
In The Sandcastle Girls, Bohjalian successfully balances a poignant character-driven romance with an exploration of a chapter of early 20th-century history that is little known to many Americans, yet unforgettable. Bohjalian is the grandson of Armenian survivors and grounds the narrative in historical facts about the genocide (his list of reference materials is exhaustive).
The Sandcastle Girls would be an excellent choice for a book club, satisfying readers who love a good story as well as those who enjoy learning a bit about history. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics