Gardens of WaterGardens of Water by Alan Drew

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

wow, very hard to believe this is a first novel.

plot: a Kurdish man (Sinan) and his family get into difficulties with an American man (Marcos) and his family after a horrible quake flattens the Turkish city where they live.

the first of their major difficulties arise around their obstinate teenagers, who fall in love in a sort of Romeo & Juliet way, except that the boy (Dylan) has some hidden problems of his own, and the girl (Irem) is really too young to understand what love is all about. still, i really appreciate for the most part the author’s efforts to get inside Irem’s head–he does a nice, nice job of detailing what a teenaged girl feels, and perhaps an equally good job of detailing what a teenaged girl in a devout Muslim family feels.

i must reiterate here that i was raised in no religion, and believe in no god, so for me religious quarrels are just kind of weird. it’s sort of like watching a couple of kids squabbling over the astonishingly complex rules of a game they invented while you were off doing the dishes or something–you don’t know the rules, the issues behind them are abstruse, and really it seems all rather silly.

but that actually is one of the other things this book does really well: it shows why people care about this religious stuff, and how it all becomes a matter of identity. for me that’s a pretty hard nut to swallow, but i’ve seen people invest their identity in equally weird things, like their bank balances or the brand of their tennis shoes.

i don’t mean to disparage religion here, just saying that it’s very difficult for me to understand why it ever becomes a killing issue. particularly when religions generally say something along the lines of “thou shalt not kill.”

so! poor Sinan’s family is being tortured by a deity whose purpose we are unable to understand, and it all just gets deeper and deeper.

this is the third thing this book does really well: it makes you just moan for the inevitability of it all. Drew gives us an avalanche from the first pebble rolling down the hill to the consequent raging destruction. as a witness, you want to say, “hey wait! what if this, instead?” in the hope of diverting the avalanche, but… you can’t divert an avalanche.

awesome read (or listen, in this case, to the audiobook).

disclaimer: i am not only ignorant of religion, i am pretty ignorant of the culture of the Kurds. so if there are inaccuracies in the portrayal, i’m not in a position to catch them.