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The New York Times
Alan Drew's first novel opens with a loss. When 9-year-old Ismail lets go of his father's hand as they board an Istanbul ferry, they are suddenly whirled apart in the mass of passengers. But this is a city where a father's panic won't go unnoticed, even in a surging crowd: within minutes, the word is out and Ismail's father, Sinan, sees the boy floating back to him, lofted from one man to the next like "a king raised high above the people."
Istanbul is the city where East meets West across the Bosporus, dividing Europe from Asia. It's also a place where the Muslim world intersects with Christianity or, if you prefer, where an agrarian and traditional society is challenged by modernity. Istanbul itself — from its nightclubs to its mosques — encapsulates the tensions of the globalized community. Figuratively and literally, Istanbul stands on a fault line.
"Gardens of Water" records the seismic shocks that reverberate through the lives of two families in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck western Turkey in 1999. The next time Sinan sees his son floating, the boy is on a bed sailing through the collapsing wall of their apartment building, turned into a jumble of broken concrete by the earthquake. Trapped in the rubble, Ismail survives — but only thanks to an American woman, pinned alongside him, who dies while feeding him water from a broken spigot...Full Review
Library JournalThis first novel explores the interactions between two families, one Muslim and the other Christian, in an Istanbul suburb during the earthquake that struck Turkey in 1999. Sinan Basioglu fears the influence of his Christian neighbors, Marcus and Sarah Roberts and their son Dylan, on his son Ismail and daughter Irem. He tries to minimize contact with them, but the earthquake binds the two families together. Ismail is buried in the rubble for hours and presumed dead. He survives miraculously when Sarah Roberts sacrifices her life to let him live. Now indebted to Marcus, the Basioglus are also homeless and forced to stay in the refugee camp he runs. Irem is increasingly drawn toward Dylan, Ismail to Christianity, and the novel quickly builds to its tragic conclusion. Drew occasionally descends into melodrama but in general has produced a fast-paced and well-written narrative, one that convincingly explores the tensions between Islam and Christianity and the seismic cultural shifts that can result from natural disasters. Recommended for larger academic and public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/1/07.]
American Library AssociationDrew's first novel takes readers to Turkey, a geographical location not common as a setting in American fiction, and his absorbing narrative is obviously derived from his own intense experiences in that place. A fresh reworking of the Romeo-and-Juliet theme, this version has on one side of the star-crossed equation a Kurdish family driven out of their native Kurdistan region of Turkey by a civil war, now resident in a town just outside Istanbul; on the other side of the equation is an American family living in the same apartment building, and the father is the director of a missionary school in Istanbul. The Kurdish father is anti-American because of his awareness that the U.S. helped the Turkish government destroy Kurdish villages. But he has a teenage daughter, and in the American family is a teenage son. Tae cataclysm that precipitates a domestic crisis involving both families is a huge earthquake that rocks the region, forcing people from their homes and into temporary camps. A richly detailed, finely plotted demonstration of culture clash.
bookreporter.comThe conflict in the Middle East doesn't seem to be dissipating any time soon, and America's imperialistic presence in that part of the world continues to be met with much derision by people at home and abroad. Because of that fact, literature written about the subject matter is flooding the marketplace --- especially as the Iraq war threatens to bubble over into Iran and more and more people are dying in the name of freedom. Just because Alan Drew's debut novel lands comfortably in the pile along with the rest of it, by no means should it be looked at as commonplace. Quite the opposite --- GARDENS OF WATER is nothing short of extraordinary...read more
Aftershocks Cultures and generations collide in a debut novel of love and loss set in earthquake-ravaged TurkeyImagine a Turkish Kurd and devout Muslim who returns to his distant suburban apartment after a day in Istanbul with his son, only to find his 15-year-old daughter raptly watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (dubbed in Turkish) on TV. He snaps off the set ("There was killing and there was kissing, enough for him"), only to be informed by his wife that she is inviting the Americans upstairs to help celebrate the traditional sunnet ceremony, their 9-year-old son's circumcision... read more
'Gardens' harvests earthly hopes and fearsAlan Drew and his wife arrived in Turkey in 1999, four days before the devastating Marmara earthquake struck, killing more than 17,000 people in 45 seconds.
From his experiences during two years in Turkey, Drew has crafted a remarkable first novel about an ancient people struggling to define themselves in a world that seems against them physically, politically and culturally.
Gardens of Water, named for the Koran's description of heaven, tells the story of a crippled grocer named Sinan, a Kurd who fled his village because of the oppressive Turkish paramilitary and who has built a new life in a suburb of Istanbul with his wife, 15-year-old daughter, Irem, and 9-year-old son, Ismail.
They are holding their own until the earth moves, destroying their neighborhood and forcing them to a tent city erected by an American religious group interested in saving both body and soul.
Then the earth moves again when Irem falls in love with 17-year-old Dylan, the son of an American woman who saved Ismail's life in the quake but lost her own. The stage is set for a standoff between the desperate Muslims and their Christian caretakers and between a Kurdish father who clings to tradition and the daughter who wants her freedom.
Toronto SunThis powerfully written first novel by Alan Drew is an astonishing story about love between cultures, the gap between parents and children, and the politics of a troubled part of the world. It's set in Turkey and features the forbidden attraction between a young American boy and a headstrong 15-year old girl, daughter of a conservative Kurdish family. The girl Irem resents the favouritism shown by her parents towards their 9-year old son Ismail. Unknown to them, she is flirting with the American boy who lives upstairs. Then an horrific earthquake turns their world upside down. Irem's father is a strict Muslim, who loves but controls his wife and his daughter. He worships his male offspring and is devastated when a tragedy occurs. A rare glimpse into a world few westerners understand. (H. B. Fenn)
Quake jolts tender plot into motion
Seven short chapters into Alan Drew's debut novel, he vividly describes one character in the grip of
a massive earthquake.
"Sinan's stomach lifted into his throat and he was dropped through the air. For a moment he felt as
though he was flying; he looked beneath his feet to find the rooftop falling. It dropped 10 feet and
tilted sideways as if the whole building was tumbling into the street."
It's a horrifying event rendered even more powerful by the chapter's last vision: that of Sinan's
adored son, Ismail, tumbling out a window into the devastation below...
First novel pursues many themes through disaster's aftermath
A return to innocence
With a storyline and a pace that's taut, this novel offers not just a gripping read but a finessed understanding of the suspicions that underline the East-West face-off.
In a small town outside Istanbul, Sinan Basioglu, a devout Muslim and his wife, Nilufer, are preparing for their nine-year-old son Ismail's coming-of-age ceremony. Irem, their daughter, a feisty 15-year-old, resents the attention he gets from their parents. No rites of passage in her life except to wrap her hair under her scarf and stay away from boys. But Irem has a secret friendship with Dylan, the 17-year-old son of their American neighbours, Marcus and Sarah, who are teachers. When a devastating earthquake strikes in the middle of the night, the Kurdish Basioglu family and the American one are caught in the fissures, literally and metaphorically... read more.