Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian is a love story set against the horror of the Armenian genocide in 1915. The novel moves between the present day narrated by Laura Petrosian, and the early years of the war. Laura is researching her family history to learn the story of how her grandparents met and fell in love.
The woman who would become Laura’s grandmother, Elizabeth Endicott, is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke when she arrives with her father in Aleppo, Syria, in 1915 to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees. Laura’s future grandfather, Armen, is an Armenian engineer who has come to Aleppo in search of information about his wife and infant daughter who have been killed by the Turks. Elizabeth and Armen fall in love but are temporarily separated as Armen leaves to travel to Egypt to join the British Army.
Elizabeth and Armen's story includes other compelling characters. Nevart, a widow who lost her husband during the genocide, has unofficially adopted Hatoun, a young girl who witnessed the decapitations of her mother and sister. And, two German army engineers risk their lives to photographic the savagery of the Armenians' predicament for posterity.
Laura Petrosian’s journey back through her family's history reveals not only love, tremendous loss, and gruesome images of the Armenian genocide, but a wrenching family secret that has been buried for generations.
The Sandcastle Girls : A Novel
Life of Pi is an award winning novel by Canadian author, Yann Martel. It tells the story of Pi Patel, the 16 year old son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry India. Pi is a spiritual seeker at an early age. He is a Hindu but falls in love with the stories of other religions and tells his parents that he wants to also be a Christian and Muslim. His family emigrates from India to Canada aboard a Japanese cargo ship along with their zoo animals. When the ship sinks, Pi ends up alone in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger.
The book describes the experience of how Pi survives 227 days adrift in the ocean with his unlikely companions. When he is finally rescued, Pi tells his extraordinary story to representatives of the Japanese shipping company searching for the cause of the sinking. They express deep disbelief, so he offers them a second, more believable story that parallels the first one. The company reps, and the reader, can choose to believe either one. The book depicts how all people use stories to give meaning to their experiences and process reality around them – some based on faith and religion.
Life of Pi is a readable book with a thought provoking ending and would make a great selection for a book club discussion.
Life of Pi