A Review from Deborah Cooke

Deborah Cooke, a retired editor of a business journal and a published travel and short story writer, sent me this review of my book.

Deborah has lived all over the world. As a hiker who often camps out in her VW van and enjoys writing about her solo forays into the outdoors, she loves Seattle best. A former English teacher, she has also served in the Peace Corps.

Deborah’s book club is reading Between the Two Rivers.

This is a remarkable book because the author has retold her mother’s survival from the Armenian Atrocity where 1.5 million were slaughtered or starved to death.  I feel like I’m there in Mosul in 1918 as a ten-year-old girl, shivering and bloated with hunger.  She remembers the wonderful memories of childhood when she twirled in her yellow dress.  She blots out the horrors of the deaths of her parents, her brothers thrown off cliffs and younger sister suffocated.  Her only surviving sister, Adrine, works as a servant for a Turkish family, and was traumatized by the rape she endured during the deportation.

Family is everything in this book.  The fact that Aida Kouyoumjian can retell her mother’s story so convincingly is the value of memory.  She recalls her mother’s plaintive lullabies about her survival stories as a child and chants about how painful it is to lose your family. Her stories teach us how to live and not give up under atrocious circumstances.  Her mother refused a move to America to marry an Armenian because her sister wasn’t allowed to go.  Family is everything.  She rescues Adrine from the Turkish family and gets her to live with her at the adoption home.  At long last, there is almost a fairy-tale ending where both sisters end up marrying very elite Armenians and have families that will be raised and educated in Iraq.

Aida Kouyoumjian moved to America in 1952.  The fact that this novel is written in English is a testament to her intellect and very vibrant voice.  The book depicts Arabic and Armenian traits and it weaves a carpet for me to get a glimpse of what life was like back then.  Evidently, the author and her mother would get together over coffee here in Seattle to talk about her past.  Her mother wrote some memoirs before her death in 1985. Growing up in the ‘50s, I remember my parents telling me to finish the food on my plate with “Remember the starving Armenians.”

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