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Orhan's Inheritance


Orhan's Inheritance

Orhan has come to Sivas, his hometown in Turkey, for his grandfather’s funeral. He has been living in Istanbul, running the kilim rug business that his dede (grandfather) built over the past decades. Unsurprisingly, the will leaves Orhan that part of the estate. But the person to whom he has left the family home comes as a huge shock, for no one in the room has ever heard of the woman. As a modern businessman, Orhan volunteers to fly to Los Angeles to use his persuasive powers on Seda. If need be, he will buy her out. But his father and aunt must be allowed to remain in the house. As it turns out, the woman’s existence was the smallest of the surprises Orhan would hear. Seda is nearing 90, living in an Armenian nursing home, and has quite a lot to tell Orhan.

"This is a beautifully written book about a horrific era rendered readable by a supremely talented author. Yet another on my list of the best this year."

The story jumps between 1990, as Orhan learns of his dede’s passing, and 1915, as the Ottoman Empire takes its last, violent breaths. Back then, Orhan’s grandfather, Kemal, was a vital young man, a Turk in love with an Armenian girl. That was nearly as bad as mixing the Capulets and the Montagues, rival families in Shakespeare’s most famous romance. Indeed, this is a tragic story of forbidden love in the time of a dark and cruel war. The object of Kemal’s affection, Lucine, was the daughter of his boss and a member of an affluent family. But Kemal’s boss was taken one night, and the remaining family members were told to prepare for “relocation,” an ambiguous term that Lucine distrusts. She wonders to where they are being moved. And are the accompanying gendarmes their protectors or their captors? She keeps a wary eye on everything around her, distrustful of almost everyone and distraught at her mother, who seems to have abdicated her responsibilities just when they need her the most. The relocation march drags on, exacting a heavy toll. The pieces of her life that Lucine loses along the way remind us of the true necessities and the strength of the will to survive. But the cost to Lucine is almost too dear.

Over several visits to the nursing home, Orhan listens to Seda’s confession, her recounting of their history, feeling her simmering anger and her abiding sorrow. Both are transformed in the telling. But does he come away with what he set out to get? Probably far more and probably far less. Almost certainly not what he expected. Life is never so simple as that.

Author Aline Ohanesian has written this bittersweet debut novel to spotlight a history that many, if not most, Americans remain unaware of. The killing of more than one million Armenians in their native country, referred to by some as the Armenian genocide, is still denied by the Turkish government. ORHAN’S INHERITANCE springs from Ohanesian’s own family story. That may well explain the depth of passion and raw emotion that shines through her prose. The love that Kemal carries for Lucine makes readers want to cheer for him, and Lucine’s conflicted responses make readers want to push the pair together. But they have to find themselves in their own time or travel the same road as Romeo and Juliet before them. Their love is as pure and as star-crossed.

This is a beautifully written book about a horrific era rendered readable by a supremely talented author. Yet another on my list of the best this year.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on April 24, 2015

Orhan's Inheritance
by Aline Ohanesian

  • Publication Date: January 19, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • ISBN-10: 161620530X
  • ISBN-13: 9781616205300