The Sandcastle Girls

  • by Chris Bohjalian
  • Narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Alison Fraser
  • 11 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Over the course of his career, New York Times best-selling novelist Chris Bohjalian has taken readers on a spectacular array of journeys. Midwives brought us to an isolated Vermont farmhouse on an icy winter's night and a home birth gone tragically wrong. The Double Bind perfectly conjured the Roaring 20s on Long Island - and a young social worker's descent into madness. And Skeletons at the Feast chronicled the last six months of World War Two in Poland and Germany with nail-biting authenticity. As The Washington Post Book World has noted, Bohjalian writes "the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish."
In his 15th book, The Sandcastle Girls, he brings us on a very different kind of journey. This spellbinding tale travels between Aleppo, Syria, in 1915 and Bronxville, New York, in 2012 - a sweeping historical love story steeped in the author's Armenian heritage, making it his most personal novel to date.
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe, and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There, Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British Army in Egypt, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.
Flash forward to the present, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents' ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed the "Ottoman Annex", Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura's grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family's history that reveals love, loss - and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

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What the Critics Say

"The granddaughter of an Armenian and a Bostonian investigates the Armenian genocide, discovering that her grandmother took a guilty secret to her grave. . . . [An] unforgettable exposition of the still too-little-known facts of the Armenian genocide and its multigenerational consequences." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
"Chris Bohjalian is at his very finest in this searing story of love and war. I was mesmerized from page one. Bravo!" (Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife)
;In his latest novel, master storyteller Chris Bohjalian explores the ways in which our ancestral past informs our contemporary lives--in ways we understand and ways that remain mysteriously out of reach. The Sandcastle Girls is deft, layered, eye-opening, and riveting. I was deeply moved." (Wally Lamb)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Bohjalian is Better Than This...

I tried to read this, tried to like it, but it is too large a canvas for my taste. I am not interested in reading about wars, ethnic cleansing, the pointless suffering of innocents - and all the pain that goes along with that, if there is no character development. I can google all about any of those topics without buying a novel or an audiobook. Certainly, I am capable of enjoying a book with a background of war - example: "Sarah's Key" - but only if the individual characters engage. This book offered nothing for the reader in the way of character bonding.

I should have listened to my heart when I read the publisher's summary. When an author whose work I love decides to go in a "different direction", I, too, should go in a "different direction" and walk away.

I like Cassandra Campbell and I thought, "well, with Chris Bohjalian and Cassandra Campbell, what's not to like?". Wrong!!! Alison Fraser, the other narrator and I guess the granddaughter character but I didn't get that far, had an annoying voice that ran too fast, too cheery - you could hear her smiling all the time and for what reason? who knows? - and had a flat accent that was either just too precious and cute (why? is her Armenian heritage "cute"?) or spilling out words at breakneck speed and I just could not tolerate it.

I am interested in varied ethnicities, but does a writer have to make an entire book out of his own heritage? Really? Is Bohjalian not capable of thinking up anything else as a basis for a novel? Can't believe that, and I'll stick to his usual story lines, which are far from clichéd or overdone. Will the writer formerly known as Chris Bohjalian please come back!!!

I am annoyed to the hilt and sad that I have to wait another year or so for the "real" Bohjalian, the writer that I know and love reading, returns.
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- Pamela Harvey "glam"

Beautiful Story

What did you love best about The Sandcastle Girls?

The exotic location for the story was so phenomenal and interesting, I loved the multi-generational aspect as well.


What does Cassandra Campbell and Alison Fraser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

It was great to have two narrators with distinct voices record this story, clever.


Any additional comments?

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction about places you don't usually read about.

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- Carmen C "I'm addicted to audiobooks, particularly thrillers and erotic reads. I'd love for you to follow my reviews!"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-17-2012
  • Publisher: Random House Audio