I joined an in-person book club a couple of months ago and this is the first book I had to read for it. It probably isn’t one I’d have read on my own which is the whole point of joining a book group – to challenge you to read beyond your comfort zone.
Alan Drew, the author, was in Turkey during the 1999 izmit earthquake that killed 17,000 people and left half a million people homeless.
The story itself is very interesting and throws up a lot of questions about faith, identity,cultural differences, prejudice and discrimination. It is told from two different perspectives, Sinan Bey the father and his daughter, Irem. The family is Kurdish and they fled to Turkey during the war with Iraq when their children were relatively young. Irem and her younger brother have grown up in Turkey and influenced by more western and liberal values.
Sinan Bey is an interesting choice of main character. His ideas are quite different to western opinion, but at the same time you can sympathise and understand him as a human being and as a father. Drew has given him a fair and balanced portrayal, allowing Bey’s character to express a view that might normally be demonised or misunderstood by others.
It’s the kind of book that offers plenty to discuss in a book group, but overall the story and the writing is underwhelming. The story is very predictable and many of the other characters felt extremely clichéd and not developed enough. The American boy who you are lead to believe has spent a good part of his life in the Middle East, acts just like a petulant American emo kid complete with tattoos and piercings. He seems to have no understanding or appreciation of the world he has been living in for the past majority of his life.
It was this that ruined the story for me. Irem and the American boy whose name I’ve forgotten felt very underwritten and stereotypical. It pulled no surprises and there was very little depth. Their relationship was used purely to cause conflict within the family and antagonise Sinan so Drew could contrast the different social cultures. There were many other things that did not feel believable. They were merely there to provide discussion points.
The writing is what I would describe as ‘written by numbers’ – something that is well constructed, readable but entirely forgettable. However, it is Alan Drew’s first published novel and so if he writes another I might be tempted to pick it up and see what he writes about next.