Add another buzzed-about debut to your September reading list: The Gendarme, by Mark T. Mustian (Amy Einhorn Books).
It has a provocative premise: a 92-year-old man discovers he has a brain tumor that seems to be unlocking memories of his past as an Ottoman Army soldier during the Armenian genocide. Turns out he fell in love with, and spared the life of, an Armenian girl during that time, and despite his age and frailty, he’s determined to go back to Turkey to find her.
The atrocities referred to in Mustian’s book are still a point of contention today, as the Turkish government still considers it a crime to refer to the murders, arrests or mass deportations that took place between 1915 and 1918 as “genocide.” Mustian traveled the route between Turkey and Syria that many Armenians were forced to travel by foot and without much food, and posted about the journey on his site. “Traveling paved highways in an air-conditioned van, I tried to imagine what it would have been like for old men, women, and children to make this journey on foot. . . . They would have had to leave almost all of their possessions behind. The sun would have been searing, the paths dusty and arduous and long. Water would have been scarce. Disease and lack of food and thievery would have taken their toll. . . . It was easy to see how many would have failed to survive it.”
Library Journal says, “A first look suggests that the dreamlike, staccato language opens up into a moving but fiercely unsentimental book. Not for your lighter time-traveler readers; recommend to smart book clubbers in search of something intriguing and different.”
Rights have already been sold in at least six countries, and the book’s striking cover recalls National Geographic‘s “Afghan Girl.”
Does learning more about this period of history interest you? Will you read?