Sunday, December 14, 2008

Book Review: Daughter of War

Daughter of War by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. (Grades 9+)

Kevork has to hide who he is. Marta bears the child of a man who raped her. Both of them could be killed if the truth came out. They are Armenians living in a country that hates them.

In Turkey during World War I, Armenians were rounded up and forced to live in concentration camps. They starved. Disease ran rampant. Missionaries from Germany and other countries tried to help, but even though Turkey was allied with Germany they were all in danger of being shut down.

No evidence of this genocide was allowed out of the country. If you were caught hiding Armenians, you were severely punished.

This is the backdrop for Daughter of War. It's brutally honest and tells the often untold story of a different genocide. We get many different points of view throughout the book, but the main stories are Kevork's and Marta's. After their parents were taken, Kevork and Marta met at a German orphanage where they fell in love. But adults and teens were not allowed to stay at orphanages and when Turks inspected the facility, Kevork and Marta were deported and separated.

Determined to find each other again, their stories take vastly different turns. Kevork disguises himself as an Arab and repairs shoes at a stall in the market. He's swept up in the resistance movement and sneaks money and other goods into concentration camps and hiding places. Marta, pregnant with an Arab's child, is delivered back to the orphanage and works to help the children there.

I give this novel high points for a gripping story about a genocide I knew little about. This book's not for the faint of heart as there are plenty of gory details about the abuse suffered by the Armenians and those who would protect them. Although the setting is rich with historical detail, I wish there had been more detail about the people and their cultures. Apparently this is a sequel to Nobody's Child, which I haven't read, so maybe if I had read that one I'd understand the conflicts a little better. Historical information is provided as a prologue, so I had some background but more details in the actual story would have made the characters come to life more than they did. Also, between the different narrators I found it hard to keep track of the passage of time.

Even with its flaws, I think this is a good story and an important one. You know those teens who devour anything having to do with WWII and the Holocaust? Try this one on them.

Check out Marsha Skrypuch's website and LiveJournal.