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Gardens of Water    by Alan Drew Amazon.com order for
Gardens of Water
by Alan Drew
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Random House, 2009 (2008)
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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Irem is a young girl who feels the strictures of a devout Muslim family. Dylan is an American boy who lives in the apartment just above hers. Needing two ferry rides to get to Istanbul, Irem knows little of the world in which she lives. That world is torn apart when there is a devastating earthquake.

Dylan's mother dies in the quake while saving Irem's little brother Ismail. The two families interact not happily, unfortunately.

Alan Drew's Gardens of Water is a sensitively written saga of the two cultures. Dylan's father cannot believe that he is invading Irem's life by making attempts to convert Ismail to Christianity. Irem's father cannot understand that Irem finds her life restrictive and that she would like to be a modern woman with choices of her own - Dylan being one of those choices.

A look into Kurdish life and the Kurds' treatment by the Turkish was an eye opener. I knew there were problems. That knowledge is unavoidable. But the extent is what bothered me.

I enjoyed the short scenes in Istanbul. It is said the way to see that city for the first time is from the sea at dawn. I was privileged to be able to do that. It is worth the effort. Beautiful. But not all is beautiful, as is carefully recorded in this debut novel.

Drew taught for three years at a private high school in Istanbul, arriving just before the terrible earthquake in 1999. I have to admit I have never been in an earthquake. I certainly, though, felt like a survivor after reading of the one our two families experience here. Gardens of Water is not to be missed.

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