cover image Three Apples Fell from Heaven

Three Apples Fell from Heaven

Micheline Aharonian Marcom. Riverhead Books, $23.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-186-3

Reading this heartbreaking, beautiful, painful first novel is a bit like reliving an extraordinarily long dream. The leaps in time, the abundance of plot lines, the casual occurrence of unspeakable events and the persistent flashbacks all give the text a distinctly dreamlike quality. But the book is based in fact: it is set in Turkey between 1915 and 1917, when the government organized the systematic massacre of the Armenian population (Hitler was later to imitate some of the Turkish techniques). Marcom's form emphasizes the nature of her subject the many stories within stories, intertwined lives, murders and madness reflect the intricate interdependencies of a nation. A few of the many protagonists are Anaguil, an Armenian girl sheltering with a Muslim family, trying to hold on to her culture; Sargis, a student hiding from the Turkish police in his mother's attic, writing poetry as he loses his mind; Lucine, a servant at the American embassy, and the consul's mistress; Rachel, who has known all of them and who speaks after her death from the bottom of a well; Maritsa, a Muslim woman who wishes she were a boy these characters and others tell their stories in interconnected chapters. This is a novel in which chronology stretches and loops, the tale returning again and again to the central reality of brutality, cruelty and loss. The highly mannered style manifests a debt to the postmodern novel and the fairy tale, resulting in something between a cry and a reminiscence. This book is not for the faint of heart, but its readers will be well rewarded. (Apr. 23)