The Armenian genocide that took place 100 years ago is not discussed in most history classes, but the story is still sadly relevant. Told in verse, Like Water on Stone follows three Armenian children, orphaned by the Ottoman siege of 1915, as they race to safety and, hopefully, to America. Their path is littered with bodies, and they see the smoke of their neighbors’ destroyed houses. Along the way, an eagle watches the young trio and does what he can to guide them and keep them safe.
The eagle is a necessary character here, as a story this bleak needs a dose of magic to keep readers from despairing. The writing is stark and never shies from the realities of war: starvation, sexual assault, the desecration of the dead. Shahen, the only surviving son of his family, tries to protect his sisters while raging against their misfortune; in turn, they remind him of home and hope. Like Water on Stone isn’t easy reading, nor should it be. It’s a clear-eyed view of war and its brutal consequences.