#59 ~ Gardens of Water

February 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, LibraryThing, Religion, Sexual Identity | 9 Comments
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Gardens of Water: A Novel by Alan Drew

Gardens of Water tells the story of how the lives of a working class, conservative Muslim family from outside of Istanbul were impacted by the horrible earthquake of 1999. Sinan Basioglu, a hard-working man with a club foot, tries to do his best by his family and keep close to his God. Circumstances force them to take shelter in a relief camp established by Christian Americans. This time spent at the camp is most especially confusing to İrem, Sinan and Nilüfer’s 15-year-old daughter. Living in the camp provides her with a freedom she hasn’t known since her early childhood. When she falls in love with Dylan, the teenage son of an American expatriate teacher, the entire Basioglu family is caused to question who they are and what is expected from them.

It’s interesting to me how there are times when two or three books I read in a row carry a similar thread. Gardens of Water, although it takes place in the Middle East, continued my thoughts on the plight of women in society. In The Tea Rose, Fiona struggled against the prevailing prejudice that women are not capable to and should not run businesses. The female characters in The Witch’s Trinity were accused of witchcraft when life became hard because of the Judeo-Christian prejudices against them that began with Eve’s first bite of that apple in the Garden of Eden. For a Muslim girl like İrem, a simple school girl crush could threaten to ruin her family name and negatively impact her younger brother’s future. For many women, life is not all that more safe today than it was back in the time of the witch trials.

Alan Drew’s debut novel is rich in its details about life in Turkey and about what it feels like and means to be Muslim. I found this especially true in his descriptions of the scenery. I felt like I saw Istanbul from a distance and could feel the water over my toes. The scene where Sinan was carrying televisions on his back as he tried to hustle through the streets of Instanbul was probably my favorite. Not only did I feel Sinan’s desperation, I felt his isolation as a Kurd in Turkish society. If you are interested in Kurdish culture, the family life of modern conservative Muslims, or are just looking for an involving book to read, I strongly suggest Gardens of Water.

To buy this novel, click here.


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  1. Your words evoke the power and magic of reading literature, how it enables us to escape our dreary quotidian lives and magically enter the world of the people we’re reading about, to see things through their eyes, to feel their feelings.

    When we re-emerge into our everyday world, we feel refreshed, and perhaps ever-so-slightly changed as a result of the vicarious experience we’ve just had.

    I’ll bear “Gardens of Water” in mind the next time I’m hunting for a novel to read.

  2. Thank you, Melissa! Please let me know what you think if you get a chance to read it.

  3. This sounds like the kind of book I would really like. I love it when fiction helps me learn more about cultures and peoples.

  4. Dev – you’re in!

  5. This is another book I’d love to snag. I’m a sucker for the whole Romeo and Juliet plot… and the Muslim girl in love with the American boy fits that perfectly. Since you recommend it, I’d love to read it.

  6. Please enter me in this giveaway. Thanks

  7. Now I know what I’m getting on my next trip the book store! I’ve been to Istanbul and was fascinated with the people and the culture. I’m particularly interested in what life must be like for a Kurd in Turkish society… Thanks.

  8. Denise, you will not regret reading this novel. If you have some experience with that culture already, I’m sure that you’ll really appreciate it. It is one of the top books I’ve read so far this year. Let me know what you think after you’ve read it.

  9. […] but the books that have stood out in my 37th year are The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, Gardens of Water by Alan Drew, The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George, […]

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