Dervishes [NOOK Book]


The richly textured, panoramic story of an American mother and daughter stuck in the expatriate community of Ankara, Turkey, in 1975--each of them trying to discover a life in the larger world, each in way over her head

When she is twelve years old, Canada moves with her mother and father to Ankara, Turkey, where her father has been stationed by the government. It is 1975--the Cold War is in full swing and tensions in the Middle East are escalating. But in Ankara's diplomatic ...

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The richly textured, panoramic story of an American mother and daughter stuck in the expatriate community of Ankara, Turkey, in 1975--each of them trying to discover a life in the larger world, each in way over her head

When she is twelve years old, Canada moves with her mother and father to Ankara, Turkey, where her father has been stationed by the government. It is 1975--the Cold War is in full swing and tensions in the Middle East are escalating. But in Ankara's diplomatic community, the days are lazy and indulgent--one long cocktail party. While her father routinely disappears on official business, Canada and her mother, Grace, find themselves in the company of gossipy embassy wives and wealthy Turkish women, immersed in a routine of card games and afternoons at the baths. By the time summer comes, and the city's electricity shuts down from dawn to dusk, mother and daughter can no longer tolerate the insular society--or each other.

Alternating between their perspectives, Dervishes follows Canada and Grace as they set out into the larger city: Grace is drawn to the lover of her wealthy, manipulative Turkish friend; Canada competes with another girl for the attentions of an arrogant Turkish houseboy, one who knows all their mothers' secrets. Before long, both are in over their heads, and their transgressions threaten to strand them between the safe island of westerners and a strange city that guards its secrets fiercely.

Written with sensuousness and empathy, Beth Helms's debut is the story of a mother and daughter cut loose from their foundations, hungry for independence but dangerously naive.

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Editorial Reviews

Alison McCulloch
Secrets and lies swirl around the characters in this first novel like the heat and dust of 1970s Ankara, which Helms evokes so well.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Helms's mesmerizing debut novel (after story collection American Wives) takes readers to Ankara, Turkey, in the mid-1970s, where 12-year old Canada lives with her mother, Grace, and her father, Rand, whose intelligence career is shrouded in secrecy and sends the family to far-flung locales. By the time they're posted to Ankara, Canada is grappling with the inevitable insecurities and yearnings of puberty, and Grace feels trapped in a loveless marriage. Even when Rand is home, he shows little interest in domestic affairs, leaving Grace mainly to socialize with other Western expatriates and a small circle of wealthy Turks. Partly as a consequence of having lived so long in a world of secrets and cover stories, Grace hasn't learned how to relate to people (or how to let them relate to her), while Canada is mired in her own parallel, secretive universe of cruel adolescence. Helms uses dazzling imagery to mine the cultural and economic divides between the diplomatic enclaves and Turkish Ankara, as well as the chasm between Canada and Grace, which widens as they seek validation outside their home, with unforeseen consequences. Elegant prose and exacting insight illuminate Helms's tale of intrigue and deception. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This first novel by the winner of the 2003 Iowa Short Fiction Award is set mostly in Ankara, Turkey. That's where 12-year-old Canada moves with her parents for her father's mysterious work with the American embassy. While her father disappears for months at a time, Canada and her mother, Grace, take turns narrating their risky behavior that ultimately causes them to be cast out of their suffocating little enclave of diplomatic families. These two characters and their female friends are engaging and complex. With the exception of a bitter Turkish houseboy called John, however, the men are blanks. Perhaps that's intentional since the women do not know their husbands, either; yet the notion that Canada's father is some kind of covert hero remains unconvincing. The novel is awkwardly paced, too, with a slow start and a rushed ending. But these shortcomings are made up for by what the story reveals about the subculture of embassy wives, whose easy camaraderie can quickly turn cutthroat. Recommended for all libraries.
—Evelyn Beck

School Library Journal

Adult/High School -In 1975, 12-year-old Canada and her mother, Grace, live in the embassy enclave in Turkey. With an emotionally distant, and often absent, father and husband, they are left to their own devices as they pursue friendships and navigate life in a foreign city. While their paths often cross in the same social circles, Canada and Grace's relationship is detached and at times hostile. But what mother and daughter have in common is their attraction to men who are forbidden to them. Canada is infatuated with the mysterious and manipulative houseboy of another diplomat's family while Grace finds herself in an affair with Canada's riding instructor. The story is told in the indistinguishable alternating voices of mother and daughter with brief excerpts from their lives prior to 1975. Despite the one-dimensional supporting characters, the strength of this novel lies in the author's extensive use of descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of Ankara. The plot moves along at a steady pace, but the tension and drama do not escalate until the closing chapters when the consequences of Canada's and Grace's actions are revealed. Teens may be put off by the elevated vocabulary and somewhat confusing shifts in time. However, sophisticated readers will be drawn in by the subtle yet gripping tragedy that befalls the pair. Those looking for a story rich in atmospheric details and delicate descriptions will find this a satisfying read.-Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD

Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Set against a backdrop of clashing cultures, Dervishes is a story of duplicity, betrayal, and the cost of keeping secrets. . . . A brilliant, moving, and utterly riveting debut. The end will leave you gasping."—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

"Not since Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things have I read a first novel so perfectly executed from start to finish, so evocative of place and time. Helms is a master."—Kate Walbert, author of Our Kind and The Gardens of Kyoto

"Mesmerizing . . . Elegant prose and exacting insight illuminate Helms's tale of intrigue and deception."—Publishers Weekly (starred)

"What an elegant, wrenching storm of a novel! Beth Helms writes in crystalline, luminous prose that is reminiscent of the finest of James Salter's novels. Not since The Great Gatsby have I read a tragedy quite like this one."—Rick Bass, author of The Lives of Rocks

Praise for Beth Helms's story collection American Wives, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award

"Fantastic! . . . There's no silver lining in Helms's stories, no end of the rainbow. . . . A brave writer."—Los Angeles Times

"Beautifully polished stories . . . splendid . . . readers will do well to watch for future publications by [Beth Helms]."—The Dallas Morning News

"The subtle and surprisingly sad representation of love will leave the reader astonished."—The Virginia Quarterly Review

"American Wives is dangerous, politically perceptive, eminently skillful, and heralds a promising new voice."—Jayne Anne Phillips, author of MotherKind

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429939942
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 3/4/2008
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,232,021
  • File size: 382 KB

Meet the Author

Beth Helms is the author of the story collection American Wives, which won the 2003 Iowa Short Fiction Award. She spent her childhood in Iran, Iraq, Germany, and Turkey, and now lives in upstate New York. Dervishes is her first novel.

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Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about Dervishes are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Dervishes.

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Customer Reviews

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