Gardens of Water

( 17 )

Overview

Gardens of Water is an enthralling story of two families, and two faiths, in Turkey at the time of the cataclysm of 1999. It tells of Sinan, whose daughter, Irem, dreams of escaping the confines of her family and the duties of a devout Muslim woman. She sees in Dylan, an American boy and her upstairs neighbor, the enticing promise of another life. But then a massive earthquake forces Sinan and his family to live as refugees in their own country and leads to a dangerous intimacy with their American neighbors, as ...
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Overview

Gardens of Water is an enthralling story of two families, and two faiths, in Turkey at the time of the cataclysm of 1999. It tells of Sinan, whose daughter, Irem, dreams of escaping the confines of her family and the duties of a devout Muslim woman. She sees in Dylan, an American boy and her upstairs neighbor, the enticing promise of another life. But then a massive earthquake forces Sinan and his family to live as refugees in their own country and leads to a dangerous intimacy with their American neighbors, as Irem and Dylan fall in love. When Sinan finds himself entangled in a series of increasingly dangerous decisions, he will be pushed toward a final betrayal that will change everyone’s lives forever. Powerful and beautifully written, Alan Drew’s Gardens of Water marks the debut of a brilliant new American writer.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In a small village outside Istanbul, Sinan, a struggling Kurdish grocer, hears an odd and ominous rumbling. In the rush of destruction that follows, his first thought is for his young son, buried beneath the earthquake's debris -- then for his wife and daughter. It is an impulse that will torment him for years to come.

Gardens of Water is a stunning and inspiring debut. At its center are two families, and the complexities of culture and faith that divide them. Sinan's 15-year-old daughter, Irem, dreams of escaping the drudgery tradition expects of her and finds refuge and hope in Dylan, the 19-year-old son of American missionaries. As their love develops through chance encounters and furtive meetings, Sinan is forced to make decisions both tragic and inevitable. His inexorable journey to the ultimate betrayal is one, as a father, he could never have imagined.

The regrets of age and the passion of youth, the bond between father and daughter, the desire for a different life, the desperate longing to honor tradition while finding a small measure of happiness outside it -- these are the themes around which Drew has fashioned his unforgettable novel. Raw, emotional, and superbly told, Gardens of Water illuminates much more than the differences that divide us; it immerses us in the common ground we all share. (Spring 2008 Selection)
From the Publisher
“Fascinating . . . a remarkable first novel [of] people struggling to define themselves in a world that seems against them.”
USA Today

“A real triumph . . . Alan Drew explores, with respect and understanding, clashes between cultures, faiths, and generations. In the end, we find ourselves feeling close to the characters and their world, as it is the very world in which we live.”
–Yiyun Li, author of The Vagrants

“Sensitive and thought-provoking, Gardens of Water is set in a perfectly realized Istanbul, a city where traditionalism and modernity grind together like the fragments of a collapsing building.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“A penetrating, tightly focused novel that balances the sweetness of youth and the brooding anxieties of parenthood with a robust understanding of the Muslim-Westerner encounter.”
–Leila Aboulela, author of The Translator

Jason Goodwin
Drew is an American who spent three years as a teacher in Istanbul, where he witnessed the earthquake he describes so well. Making deft use of this background, he has constructed a novel in which disastrous aftershocks rumble all the way through to a tragic denouement. Sensitive and thought-provoking, Gardens of Water is set in a perfectly realized Istanbul, a city where traditionalism and modernity grind together like the fragments of a collapsing building.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In Drew's well-intentioned if overwrought first novel, cultures clash as a teenaged Kurdish girl and an American boy fall in love over the objection of the girl's father, a Muslim Kurd living in Istanbul. Sinan, a shop owner, tries to keep his American upstairs neighbors, Marcus Hamm and his family, at arm's length. But this is impossible after an earthquake devastates Istanbul, and Sinan and his family end up living in a tent city provided by American missionaries. Marcus, the director of a missionary school, lost his wife in the earthquake; she was found dead, shielding Sinan's son, who was buried alive for three days before being rescued. Now, Sinan watches as his America-obsessed daughter, Irem, falls in love with Marcus's bipolar son, Dylan, and his impressionable younger son, Ismail, slowly becomes converted to Christianity at the camp. The story moves inexorably toward a climax in which Sinan's Muslim pride and Marcus's Christian proselytizing collide with predictably tragic results. Though some may find the ideological conflict that provides the narrative thrust too textbookish, Drew, who lived in Istanbul at the time of the Marmara earthquake, effortlessly transports readers to a wrecked Istanbul and finds shards of hope in the mountains of rubble. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This first novel explores the interactions between two families, one Muslim and the other Christian, in an Istanbul suburb during the earthquake that struck Turkey in 1999. Sinan Basioglu fears the influence of his Christian neighbors, Marcus and Sarah Roberts and their son Dylan, on his son Ismail and daughter Irem. He tries to minimize contact with them, but the earthquake binds the two families together. Ismail is buried in the rubble for hours and presumed dead. He survives miraculously when Sarah Roberts sacrifices her life to let him live. Now indebted to Marcus, the Basioglus are also homeless and forced to stay in the refugee camp he runs. Irem is increasingly drawn toward Dylan, Ismail to Christianity, and the novel quickly builds to its tragic conclusion. Drew occasionally descends into melodrama but in general has produced a fast-paced and well-written narrative, one that convincingly explores the tensions between Islam and Christianity and the seismic cultural shifts that can result from natural disasters. Recommended for larger academic and public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/1/07.]
—Douglas Southard

School Library Journal

Adult/High School -Set in a small town outside Istanbul after the 1999 earthquake, this remarkable debut novel chronicles the complex relationships within and between American and Kurdish families. United by the illicit romance of Dylan, 17, and Irem, 15, two families cope with the losses presented by the quake and the challenges created by their cultural differences. Dylana€™s father is one of the Christian Americans providing aid in the camp where Irema€™s family has taken refuge. Her father, Sinan, must spend hours away from home working to support his family while also fighting to preserve their values amid incompatible cultural influences. As the relationship between Dylan and Irem develops, Sinana€™s inner struggle between love and honor escalates, causing him to make a devastating decision that will end in tragedy for both families. The power and brilliance of this book lie in the skillfully crafted levels of the plot. Readers will find themselves engaged in Sinana€™s fight to hold his family together while empathizing with Irema€™s desire to redefine herself outside of her conservative Muslim heritage. At the same time, they will be engrossed in the emerging romance while also questioning the motives of the American aid workers in the camp. Sophisticated teens will be further rewarded with the exploration of changing cultural, political, and religious boundaries. This novel will generate a variety of interesting classroom and book club discussions.-Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812978445
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/10/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 337,409
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Drew was born and raised in Southern California and has traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. He taught English literature for three years at a private high school in Istanbul, arriving just four days before the devastating 1999 Marmara earthquake. In 2004 he completed a master of fine arts degree at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was awarded a Teaching/Writing Fellowship. He lives with his wife and son in Cincinnati.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

In the rush of bodies to board the ferry leaving Istanbul for Gölcük, Sinan lost his son.
Five minutes earlier ÿIsmail had been tugging Sinan in the opposite direction, back toward the city, deep into the labyrinth of arcades and electronics stores of the Sirkeci neighborhood. Sinan suspected it was for the exact purpose of missing the ferry home and delaying the pain of the circumcision ceremony that evening. The boy stomped across the bricks in his white circumcision costume, one hand squeezing
Sinan’s fingers and the other hoisting his tasseled staff in the air like a pasha leading a parade. Sinan let himself be pulled for a while,
but the horn had already sounded, and, even though he, too, wanted to delay the ceremony, they couldn’t miss that ferry.
When they had reached Re¸sadiye Avenue, Sinan pulled ÿIsmail into the street just as the traffic broke, Sinan’s shoulders rocking back and forth in an awkward dance on his bad foot. He finally pushed
Ismail through the metal gate to the ferry dock just in time for them to join the throng of men and women leaving work for the day. They ran from the shade of the dock back out into the searing summer sun,
Sinan leading Ismail this time through a sea of elbows, shoulders, and damp backs. They climbed the thin plank of wood used as a bridge from dock to boat, the green water beneath them churning with translucent jellyfish, and they entered the smoky cabin, where Ismail dropped his staff. He let go of Sinan’s hand, and before Sinan could grab his son’s arm, the boy disappeared, swallowed by the wave of bodies.
Now Sinan shoved through the crowd to get to the boy, but his foot made it difficult. He pushed against the stomachs of men smoking cigarettes, turning sideways to make himself thinner. “Affedersiniz,
he said to each person he touched, in a voice barely concealing his rising panic. “Excuse me.” But the more he struggled forward, the more he was shoved backward by the jostling mob, and soon he was forced all the way to the other side of the ferry, his back leaning against a rusty chain that kept him from tumbling into the Bosporus.
“Allah, Allah,” he said out loud. A man standing next to him glanced in his direction.
“Too many men,” the man said. He lit a cigarette, the smoke flying away from his face. “Too many men, not enough city.”
“My boy’s lost,” Sinan said.
The man turned around. He was taller than Sinan and he was able to see over the heads of the crowd.
“Where?” the man said.
“At the entrance.”
The man stood on his toes and yelled across the cabin in a voice so powerful it silenced the crowd.
“Erkek çocuk nerede?”
That started a chorus of echoes. “Where’s the boy?” strangers called, their voices rising above the sound of the engine straining to pull away from the dock. “Where’s the boy? Where’s the boy?” they yelled into the wind, as the ferry nosed its white hull out into the blue water. “ÿIsmail!” Sinan called, joining his voice to the chorus. The men yelled “ÿIsmail” too, and a pandemonium of concern radiated out through the cabin.
Then thirty feet away, rising above the heads of hundreds of people,
came his son. At first ÿIsmail seemed to be floating under his own power, a princely ghost taken flight in the sea-whipped wind, but as he drew nearer, Sinan saw the shoulders on which ÿIsmail rested. The man elbowed through the parting crowd, a cigarette burning in his mouth, his large, hairy hands wrapped around the boy’s stomach.
Ismail’s white teeth gleamed against his skin and his black eyes shone in the afternoon light. The staff was clasped in his fist, and for a moment he seemed to be a king raised high above the people of ÿIstanbul.
Te¸sekkür ederim,” Sinan said when the stranger handed him his son.
“Bir ¸sey de¢gil.”

When the ferry docked in their suburb of Gölcük three hours later, Ismail wouldn’t let go of the railing. Sinan touched the top of
Ismail’s head, and reminded him of the gifts he would receive after the ceremony. He tickled ÿIsmail’s armpits and tugged on his earlobe,
which didn’t earn him the usual dimpled smile, much less a loosening of the boy’s white-knuckled grip. A few women, shuffling toward the exit, smiled in sympathy. The man who had carried ÿIsmail on his shoulders slid a one-million-lira note into the pocket of the boy’s white satin vest.
“What’s your name?” the man said.
“ÿIsmail.”
“ÿIsmail what?” the man said.
“ÿIsmail Ba¸sio¢glu.”
“That’s a fine name. A strong man’s name.” The man winked at
Sinan. “Can’t stay a boy forever,” he said.
Sinan thought the man was scolding him for ÿIsmail’s age–nine, at least a year too old for the sünnet–but the man’s smile betrayed nothing but generosity.
When the deck was cleared of people, Sinan touched his son’s hand and felt the boy’s fingers stiffen. “We have to go,” he said.
Behind ÿIsmail, the sun collapsed in red bands along the horizon.
Sinan knelt beside ÿIsmail and put his hands on the boy’s shoulders.
“It will hurt, but that pain will pass and God will know you’re willing to endure pain for him. A man has to endure pain, ÿIsmail. But it will pass.”
Ismail looked at the ground, his long eyelashes pressed against his cheeks.
“Baklava soaked in honey afterward? Two, maybe?”
Finally, the boy smiled.

They had left home that morning, just as sunlight broke above the bay, and took the three ferries the length of the Gulf of ÿIzmit into
Istanbul. Sinan hadn’t been to ÿIstanbul since they had first arrived in the city from Ye¸silli, their village in the Southeast, seven years ago,
but it had been ÿIsmail’s special request to be paraded around the city on the day of his circumcision. Sinan hated ÿIstanbul–too many people,
too much cement, too little sky–but ÿIsmail was fascinated by it.
Even after a full day of stomping around the city that caused Sinan’s foot to ache, his son’s fascination rubbed off on Sinan.
People had been kinder than he had expected. A woman in a pastry shop had offered the boy a slice of chocolate cake laced with pistachio nuts, a bite of which ÿIsmail promptly dropped on the white satin of his pasha’s costume, soiling the garment that had cost Sinan a week’s earnings. A taxi driver gave them a free ride up to Topkapý
Palace, where, like sultans of another age, they gazed out over the shimmering waters of the Bosporus. They marveled at Bo¢gaziçi Bridge,
standing like a huge metal suture between the hills of Asia and
Europe. They counted the boats crisscrossing the Sea of Marmara–
massive tankers that shoved the water aside, lumbering car ferries leaning into the current, driftwood-sized fishing spits–and settled on the number forty-six. As they passed the fish houses in Kumkapý
neighborhood, the musicians at one of the tourist restaurants left their table and followed ÿIsmail down the street, blowing their reed flutes to announce his passing.
Nilüfer and ÿIrem had stayed home to cook the food for the party tonight. If they had still lived in Ye¸silli, Sinan’s aunts and uncles and cousins would have helped, and the whole family would have paraded
Ismail through the unpaved streets. Sinan kept the memories of his own sünnet celebration to himself; he didn’t want his son to know what he was missing. But the images had flashed in his mind throughout the day–his father hoisting him onto their best horse, his mother walking beside him, one hand resting on his knee, and the horse’s belly swaying against her own pregnant bulge. It was one of his last memories of her, and even though her face had been white and she wouldn’t smile, he hadn’t thought to tell his father to get her home.
Three days later, his father would leave Sinan with his aunt while he drove his mother to the good hospital in Diyarbakýr. She was bleeding,
his aunt told Sinan. The doctors would make her better and he would have a little sister or brother when they came home. Only his father came back.
Now the call to sunset prayer echoed from dozens of speakers, the amplified voices ricocheting off the cement walls of apartment buildings.
Sinan was nervous, too, and a knot the size of an apricot had hardened inside his stomach. The walk home took them past the fishmonger’s,
and Sinan gave ÿIsmail money to buy the fish heads and severed tails for the street cats. Eren Bey, the fish seller, wrapped the remains in paper and handed them to ÿIsmail.
“Wait,” Eren Bey said, holding up one bloody finger. From a fernlined basket filled with his best palamut, he grabbed the largest fish,
wrapped it up with a sprig of oregano, and dropped it into ÿIsmail’s hands. “Fish will make you a strong man.” He flexed his bicep and slapped the bump of muscle. “All the women in the world will kiss your feet.”
Eren winked and ÿIsmail smiled.
“Please,” Sinan said, “he’s just a boy.”
Efendim,” the fish seller said, his hands held out as if he were mildly insulted, “just a joke.”
They stopped at the rotting wooden konak where the street cats lived, but the cats were not there. ÿIsmail threw the fish parts through the broken window anyway, a gift for their return. They took maghrib
prayer at mosque, and Sinan listened as ÿIsmail stumbled through the
Arabic. Afterward, they climbed the hill that led to their apartment,
and the bright lights of the amusement park below spun against the darkening sky. Sinan promised, as always, to take ÿIsmail there someday for a ride on the Ferris wheel.
By the time they reached their apartment, the knot in Sinan’s stomach had grown to the size of a small apple. He massaged the spot with his fingertips and it rolled around inside his stomach. He wondered,
briefly, if he could delay the ceremony one more year. But people were already coming, the sünnetci was already scheduled, and he would have to make his son suffer the pain tonight.
“Go on and see Ahmet,” Sinan said to ÿIsmail. He knew his brother-in-law would spoil the boy, treat him like a child one last time before ÿIsmail had to bear the burden of trying to be a man. “I’ll come and get you at the grocery later.”
Sinan climbed the curving staircase of his apartment building.
American music blasted down the stairwell and rattled the metal railing.
He hated their apartment. From the outside it looked nice: the cement walls were painted yellow and the stairway to the front door was made of mediocre marble that shined when the apartment manager bothered to polish it. But inside you could hear a man whisper through the plywood doors, the plaster walls were chipped, and on stormy afternoons, when the rain rolled across the bay as though the sea had stood up and formed a wall, the wind slipped through the cracks in the mortar and deposited saltwater and cement dust in the corners of the living room.
In the kitchen, Nilüfer was covered in sweat and a dusting of flour.
Little balls of dough stuck to her fingertips.
“Sinan.” She smiled. “Caným,” she said, and purposely pressed her doughy hands to his face.
“Stop that, Nilüfer,” he said, but he let her smear the dough across his cheeks.
She kissed him once on each doughy cheek. Sinan tucked a stray strand of hair beneath her head scarf.
“How long has this been going on?” he asked, motioning with his head toward the music blasting through the ceiling.
She shrugged. “Forty-five minutes?” She looked behind Sinan.
“Where’s ÿIsmail?”
“With Ahmet.”
“Well, go get him. I need to get him ready.” She squeezed loaves of bread he had brought from the grocery that morning. “This bread is too hard. You need a new bread man,” she said. She walked into the kitchen. “The yogurt is runny. This heat is ruining it all. The börek
won’t rise, the peppers are like rubber.”
“Nilüfer, it will be fine,” he said. “I’ll go to the store and get more bread. Stop worrying.”
She leaned a fist on a hip and blew air through her teeth. “As though you don’t worry.”
He touched his stomach and made a face.
She waved her hand at him. “See.”
He laughed. “All right, all right.”
He looked around the corner to where his daughter sat watching television and made sure ÿIrem could not see them before touching
Nilüfer’s hips and kissing her on the lips–a long kiss, the kind he usually gave her only in their bedroom.
“Quit with that,” she said, but her hands rested on his chest. She slapped him on the shoulder and whispered, “We don’t need any more children.”
“What’s this?” Sinan said. Some sort of pastry sat in a circular tray on the kitchen table. It wasn’t a Turkish dish.
“Pecan pie,” Nilüfer said with an astonished lifting of her eyebrows.
“Sarah Haným brought it down for the party.” She glanced toward the ceiling.
“The American’s wife?” he said. “Pecans?”
An American family occupied the sixth floor, the one directly above them. They spent only the summers here, just sitting around,
drinking wine on the terrace, and listening to jazz music, as far as
Sinan could tell.
“Her name’s Sarah,” Nilüfer said, glaring at him. “Sarah Roberts,
and she’s nice.”
“Maybe, then, she could teach her son some manners.” He pointed to the throbbing ceiling.
“We should have invited them. I feel bad.”
“You should be helping your mother,” Sinan said to his daughter,
sticking his head around the corner into the living room.
“Baba, I’ve been working all day.” She didn’t look at him when she spoke. He didn’t know what it was about fifteen-year-old girls, but he had never known a child so rude to her parents.
He glanced at the television. It was an American show dubbed in
Turkish, and the actors’ mouths stopped moving before the lines were finished being said. A scantily dressed blond girl killed monsters with a stake.
He watched the show for a minute, enough to determine that it dealt with the devil and sex.
“I don’t want you watching this. It’s not moral.”
“Baba, Buffy kills the vampires, the evil ones. What’s more moral than that?”
He snapped off the television.
Baba!
“Get yourself ready for tonight,” he said. “It’s your brother’s special night.”
Irem ran down the hallway. “ÿIsmail, ÿIsmail, ÿIsmail,” she said, “always
Ismail.” She slammed the door to the room she shared with her brother and the music upstairs stopped.
Sinan let out a frustrated breath of air. “How are we raising our children?” he called toward the kitchen.
“You could say hello to her first,” Nilüfer said, popping her head around the corner of the kitchen.
“So she could ignore me and stare at this stupid box?”
“Sinan, it’s only a television show.” He heard the oven door squeak open. “She’s been working hard since this morning. Be nice.”
He switched on the television again and watched for a minute,
turning his head to the side to consider it. There was killing and there was kissing, enough for him. He shut it off.
“I’m going to invite them,” Nilüfer said, standing in the hallway now.
“No.” It was bad enough they lived above him, but he didn’t want the Americans inside his house, especially on this day.
“Sinan,” Nilüfer said. “It’s wrong. They’re our neighbors.”
He shook his head, but she was already coming toward him with a smile on her face.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Sinan is a character that is full of contrasts. On one hand, he’s indebted to Marcus, and grateful to his help. But on the other hand, he’s resentful of Americans, and particularly Marcus’s Christian values. How does this inner conflict affect his judgment? Do you think he should have acted differently with regards to Dylan and Irem’s relationship? Do you think it would have mattered?

2. Dylan’s mother, Sarah dies while saving Ismail from being crushed by the rubble from the earthquake. Do you think Nilufer would have made a similar sacrifice for Dylan?

3. The relationship between Dylan and Irem has been described as star-crossed. In what ways is this true? How is their situation similar to the one in Romeo and Juliet? Do you think there was another way their story could have ended?

4. The idea of honor plays a large role in the book. Dicuss the differing standards of honor in men and women, Muslims and Kurds, locals and foreigners.

5. In what ways do Sinan and Marcus represent the larger issues of East vs. West?

6. Music plays a large role in Dylan and Irem’s relationship. Why do you think Drew chose Radiohead to be their favorite? Why do you think Irem identified so powerfully with the lyrics? Do you think music is the only thing universal enough to truly connect such different people?

7. In some ways, Gardens of Water could be seen as a commentary on the way Americans are often quick to come to the rescue in foreign countries, only to further complicate the situation. Do you think the story would have been different if Dylan and Marcus had been from a different country?

8. At one point in the book, Marcus says to Sinan: “Our children are not ours. That’s our mistake. We think they are. It seems so for a while—a few brief years—but they aren’t. They never were.” Do you think this is true? How does this opinion influence the different ways in which Marcus and Sinan view their children?

9. The story has an almost claustrophobic feeling to it at times, as the world literally crumbles around the characters. Describe the ways in which the different characters feel trapped, and how this affects their actions.

10. What do you think defines a happy life? How do the characters’ perceptions of this differ from one another?

11. There’s a big contrast between Irem’s family duties and her own interests and passions. Discuss the ways in which the story might have been different if it were about a Kurdish boy and an American girl, rather than the other way around?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 19 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 29, 2009

    Gardens of Water is excellent choice for book clubs

    This book was chosen for our book club. The author deposited us into Turkey right after their earthquake of 1999, and the author gave us a first hand view of survival as a Kurd in Turkey. I was especially taken with the struggles, challenges and trials of the father, as he is perhaps the best portrayed in the book. At least, he was my favorite. For a book club with active talking members (and we certainly are), there is much to discuss; including the topics of the American family and the role of Americans in Turkey, the role of missionaries, the young girl and her desire to fit in, the age-old challenges of young vs. older (parents), etc. The author brought up many topics and I commend the author for writing an excellent story for his first book.

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  • Posted August 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Love is doing the painful things because they are right.

    This is a line from Gardens of Water. This wonderful first novel is about love-love of religion, parents, children and self. It is hard to imagine living in conditions as described in the novel with the hardships of daily life. Drew shows us what happens when east meets west. Writers like Drew bring these emotions and images to life in a touching way.

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  • Posted June 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Best book in a long time

    This is one of the best books I've read in quite a while. The storyline is unique and the writing is excellent. The story illustrates the clash of two religions and two cultures. A very compelling read. Ideal for book clubs - lots of events to dissect and discuss. I listened to it on audio cd, which was really well done by the narrator - uses accents and emotions in his voice, which adds to the drama.

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  • Posted February 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Gardens of Water and a Whirlwind of Emotions

    In a complex world of clashing cultures, both between nations as well as within one another, Alan Drew weaves a tale that captivates the readers emotions, taking hold until the very end. <BR/><BR/>The story begins as Sinan and his Kurdish family celebrate their son's rite of passage. It is at this early point in the story that we discover that Irem, their teenage daughter bares a slight jealously towards her beloved brother for their parents favored treatment. We also learn of Irem's relationship with the American boy who lives in the apartment above them. <BR/><BR/>Suddenly, an earthquate hits the town that changes the life of each and every character forever. <BR/><BR/>So begins a tale that will ultimately lead to passion, fear, regret, loss, friendship, forgiveness, guilt, anger, and peace. <BR/><BR/>Irem will have you quickly reminiscing of those feelings as a rebellious teenager stricken with a desperate case of puppy love. <BR/><BR/>Sinan, the most complex character of the novel, will cause your emotions to fluctuate as you journey with him through the depth of a father's love, his misconstrued hatred for America and his contemplation of how to regain the honor of his family. <BR/><BR/>The ending comes as quite a surprise and I am sincerely impressed with this fresh novelist's debut into the literary world. <BR/><BR/>It is with great anticipation that I await his next project.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2008

    Pretty powerful

    This is an emotionally charged novel centering on family. Drew's Debut tells the story of family, and forbidden relationships. I will definitely read another one by him

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2008

    Gardens Of Water

    Alan Drew is an American who spent three years teaching in Istanbul. During that time, he witnessed the 1999 earthquake, which devastated many parts of western Turkey. Having seen the tragedy first hand, he uses it as the backdrop for his self-assured debut, Gardens Of Water. Sensitive, disturbing and thought-provoking at the same time, it deals with thems often dealt with before. Love, loss and betrayal are touched upon, but in this case, it is the setting which makes all the difference: Istanbul, a city where traditionalism and modernity come head to head, is symbolic of the fault line dividing the East and the West. Relationships are tested and sacred bonds are broken when the quake destroys the homes of thousands, including those of a Muslim Kurd and an American. The tragedy brings the families of Sinan, a conservative shop owner who has a teenage daughter and a nine-year-old son, and Marcus, an American teacher who has a teenage son Dylan, head to head. Sinan tries to shield his family from the influence of the Americans when they move into the same apartment building as theirs. Things change when his son survives the quake, thanks to the human shield created by Dylan's mother. Sinan is forced to take refuge in a camp run by American missionaries and sees his daughter falling in love with Dylan. The man who once banned his children from watching Western television and forced his daughters to cover herself when going out, soon sees his old world and the beliefs he held so dear slowly slip away. The powerful story of survival eloquently reflects the characters' inner turmoil as well, making this book hard to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2008

    Decent, but not great.

    I went into this book knowing as much about Kurdish culture as the next non-Middle Eastern person tends to, and I finished it about the same way. While the plot has its interesting points, the treatment of the Kurdish people seemed rather shallow, more of a confirmation of stereotype than an eye-opening look into a different culture. The characters were fleshed out enough to keep me reading, but I would have liked to know more about their motivations and thoughts, especially when it came to the mother. The main character's actions seemed a bit unbelievable, but perhaps further insight into her cultural background might have fixed some of that. The plot seemed to be something that might have been clipped out of the news, which may be why it didn't do much for me on an emotional level. I don't regret taking the time to read this book once, but I definitely wouldn't read it a second time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2008

    AN AMAZING & BRAVE BOOK

    Culture and customs of peoples of the Near East are hard for us to understand. And it must be hard to fashion a representative family in one of those countries without wondering if readers will let it represent at least one likely story that might happen in that country. As one who has lived in Istanbul, but a decade earlier than Mr. Drew, I found this book to be a really good representation of life in a little town on the outskirts of Istanbul. I found Mr. Drew's pictures of the families to be just as I experienced them. In every respect I found him to be painting a very accurate picture, very close to my own recollection. His story was captivating from the first. I rushed through the book the first time for plot only....I just had to see where he took the conflicts! At the end, I put the book down, and the next day started re-reading it slowly this time to savor what I had missed in the 'speed-reading.' Turkey is a different country than the US, different in culture and in social practices than we are used to. The reader with an open mind will see this not as better or worse than the US but just different from. I hope Mr. Drew will draw on his years in Turkey for more amazing stories.

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