Alev Lytle Croutier, Author . S&S/Atria $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7434-4413-2

The various residences of the Ipekci family serve as the narrative framework for this ambitious second novel by Croutier, a multigenerational saga tracing a Turkish family's turbulent journey through the 20th century. In the storied Aegean city of Smyrna, young, widowed family matriarch Esma is courted by her children's tutor, Süleyman, until her older brother, Iskender Bey, forces Süleyman to flee. Grief stricken, Esma devotes herself to her sons, and particularly Cadri, who brings his willful bride, Camilla, to live at the family villa. Some years after Esma's death, Cadri and Camilla move to Iskender Bey's silk plantation with their daughter, Amber, who narrates much of the family history in a scattershot series of well-crafted, emotionally resonant scenes. The story of her own uneven upbringing—in Smyrna; on the plantation; in Ankara; in 1950s Istanbul, where her parents finally settle—alternates with the stories of beautiful Aida, Amber's aunt, who is crowned Miss Turkey by Atatürk; slick con man Rodrigo Cavallero, who dupes the Ipekcis with a scheme to grow decaffeinated coffee beans; and Hamid Bey, Camilla's one-armed soldier father. Amber emigrates to the U.S. as an adult, but the novel comes full circle when she returns to Turkey with her daughter and visits all the places she once knew. Croutier's shimmering prose integrates a heady potpourri of poetic imagery, elements of magical realism and finely honed characterizations. The overabundance of subplots and the absence of well-developed male characters hurts the narrative balance, but this represents a solid success on the heels of Croutier's more traditional debut, The Palace of Tears. Agents, Bonnie Nadell and Jane Judd. West Coast author tour. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/16/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-7434-4414-9
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