The year is 1915. The place is Turkey in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. Against the backdrop of a world war and faced with a disintegrating empire, a trio of ruthless ministers press long-simmering agendas, which include the elimination of the Armenians. What a time for young Gayen Bashian to come of age and fall in love!
This is Gayen’s story of longing and loss, and of the courage and connivance required to triumph in a world gone mad. Throughout, the luminous Oriental rugs of her family’s business mirror how a life can come together and apart.
Early reader response:
“I found myself gripped by The Color of Heaven, eager to return to the page. Denise Shekerjian is obviously a fine writer, and she has created a compelling voice in her young heroine. She has an eye for detail, too, and this brings a wrenching era to life in this subtle novel.” – Jay Parini
“Denise Shekerjian’s luminous novel The Color of Heaven is narrated by a fifteen-year-old girl, from an Armenian rug merchant’s family, who comes to adulthood and wisdom in the worst of times. Its exquisite language and compelling plot call to mind Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire. Both take place at the crossroads of East and West; both recount the ravages of a World War; and both are, above all, memorable love stories. — Shelby Hearon
And “beautiful voice,” “moving, heartbreaking, powerful, wonderful,” and “powerful – almost unbearably so.”
Excerpt, chapter 1:
Accounts vary, of course.
Ask me, and our milk soured in the winter of 1915, the snow drifted so high in places, it blocked the windows, the distinctive crunch of a neighbor’s step the first sign that he was at the door. It was January, and with my fifteenth birthday just passed, I had assumed at last my firm place in womanhood, my shoulders square. My birth at the turn of the century was blessed, everyone said so. It was cold and clear—they said that, as well—the night sky dazzling which befit the start of a new one hundred years, and there I was at the beautiful beginning of it, though I could hardly have appreciated it then. Many things were promised in this new age, but never what came.
Ask me then, and I would have said that among the many blessings of my bountiful life was my curious sense of immunity, my coat with all its buttons and my hat in place. Past wounds of childhood, grave and silly, had softened. Ask me, and my future was etched in sunlight.
But things came that were not predicted, not by the old women with their tongues working, and by not the fortuneteller in the square. Not even Auntie, who scrutinized the tracings of silt left in all our coffee cups, suggested that perhaps we ought to pull the mists from our eyes. “Run girl—put the water to warm.” We just went on, so much of life lining up by chance, and so did I with the others and with him as well, all of us lined up outside my father’s shop at the moment I fix as the beginning.
Photo credit: morguefile