#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.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#05 ~ Life of Pi

February 5, 2007 at 7:42 pm | Posted in Books, Brain Food for Thought, Culture, Inspiration, LIfe, Reading, Religion | 3 Comments
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Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I had been excited about reading this book for quite some time. I was worth the wait. I did find the middle two thirds of this book to be slow and boring. Upon finishing it, I’m could be convinced that this was intentional. How slow and boring would it feel to spend 225 days as a castaway in a lifeboat? It is a brilliant book.

Pi’s family is a secular family. Pi himself, on the other hand, is a Hindu, Muslim, Christian. He has incorporated many of the rituals from each tradition. It’s not so much that he is creating his own faith. He actively participates in all three. It feels perfectly natural for him to find God as He reveals Himself to other people. His views on faith, religion, and God are interesting and thought provoking.

I don’t feel that I can really say much about this book without it spoiling it for other readers. This is the story of Pi, a teenaged Indian boy, who is the son of a zookeeper. In order to make a new life for themselves, the family sells off the animals to North American zoos. They travel together with these animals on a boat that has set sail for Canada. There would begin their new life. Unfortunately, the ship sinks quickly. Only, Pi and three of the zoo animals make it on the lifeboat. The remainder of the story details how Pi survived his ordeal. As the book is told in an interview type of style, we was get glimpses of Pi’s life after reaching shore in Mexico.

After completing this book, I know that I will have to read it again at some point. I want to go back and pick up pieces that I missed or misinterpreted. It is a book that I could learn something from with each read.

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