Dervishes: Book summary and reviews of Dervishes by Beth Helms

Dervishes

By Beth Helms

Dervishes
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2008,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

Paperback original. The richly textured, panoramic story of an American mother and daughter stuck in the expatriate community of Ankara, Turkey, in 1975--each of them trying to discover a life in the larger world, each in way over her head.

Grace and Canada are the wife and twelve-year-old daughter of an American diplomat stationed in Ankara. While he disappears for long stretches, mother and daughter are forced into a fiercely gossipy, isolated community of Western ladies and wealthy Turks. Fed up with each other during the hot summer months, when the electricity shuts down throughout the city from dusk to dawn, each ventures out beyond the embassy swimming pools and cocktail parties into Ankara. But neither is quite equipped to navigate on her own in Turkey, and they are soon lost in a society they can't possibly comprehend. Their transgressions threaten to strand them between the safe island of expatriates and a city still hostile to the presence of foreigners.

Dervishes is a psychologically complex, richly atmospheric story of a mother and daughter cut loose from their foundations, hungry for experience but dangerously naïve.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"What an elegant, wrenching storm of a novel! Beth Helms writes in crystalline, luminous prose that is reminiscent of the finest of James Salter's novels. Not since The Great Gatsby have I read a tragedy quite like this one." - Rick Bass, author of The Lives of Rocks.

"Starred Review. Elegant prose and exacting insight illuminate Helms's tale of intrigue and deception." - Publishers Weekly.

"The novel is awkwardly paced, too, with a slow start and a rushed ending. But these shortcomings are made up for by what the story reveals about the subculture of embassy wives, whose easy camaraderie can quickly turn cutthroat. Recommended for all libraries." - Library Journal.

"Set against a backdrop of clashing cultures, Dervishes is a story of duplicity, betrayal, and the cost of keeping secrets. . . . A brilliant, moving, and utterly riveting debut. The end will leave you gasping." - Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants.

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Louise
Dervishes
Like the Dervishes, this novel left my head spinning. Having toured through Turkey, I could almost taste the sights and sounds of Istanbul and Ankara. This alone would make the time spent reading worthwhile. At its conclusion I found myself ordering a box of Turkish Delight aka Lokum.

Though all the characters are evil, and not totally believable, I couldn't put the book down. What a fun read.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Kathleen
Great Read for Book Clubs
I strongly recommend this book for book clubs or for people who like to struggle with untidy issues. Dervishes is not a tidy book. On the contrary, it raises more questions than it answers, and is disturbing on many levels. The constantly shifting voice can be confusing, but emphasizes how everyday events can be interpreted quite differently. Seemingly trivial decisions result in lives that are irrevocably changed. The author shows great empathy for characters who aren't necessarily likable, but are people we can relate to all too well. I was expecting a story about a mother-daughter relationship set in Turkey, but the author delivered far more.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Francine
Dervishes
This dark story tells the downward spiral of a mother and daughter caught in a web of secrecy and deceit sprinkled with questionable relationships. They are immersed in a whirlpool of outside influences that severely damages each of them personally as well as their already shaky relationship to each other.

Might this situation be what one might refer to as a "howling" or "whirling" dervish?

I believe this to be an excellent read for a book club - speculations and discussions would abound.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Tracy
Dervishes
An interesting portrait of a culture, a time , a place and a society that heretofore was a mystery to me. The author does a superb job of evoking time and place.

Some of the writing was lyrical other portions were clunky and contrived - overwritten. Most difficult for me were the characters - none of whom were apealing to me. The father had potential - but his character was never developed - he was the one I had some desire to get to know. Add to that a slow developing plot and unfortunately, I lost interest and the book became tedious.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Amber
Lovely Book
I enjoyed this book a lot. The setting and the characters were interesting and sympathetic. I was a little disappointed in the resolution; I didn't feel like the daughter's story was carried through to a satisfactory point. But the ending was engaging overall. The atmosphere of the book was probably my favorite thing about the book.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Ellen
Dervishes
Beth Helms has written an excellent first novel and I look forward to reading her story collection.

This was an absolutely beautifully written book - descriptive, mysterious and magical. From the first few pages I was immediately drawn to the story of Canada and her mother and father. The author writes in an almost poetic form and I truly felt as though I knew this family as well as the places they lived.

I loved this book - it was entertaining yet also very personal - a story we can all relate to on many levels. I highly recommend this book.

...11 more reader reviews

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Beth Helms is the author of the story collection American Wives, which won the 2003 Iowa Short Fiction Award. She spent her childhood in Iran, Iraq, Germany, and Turkey, and now lives in Pond Ridge, New York. Dervishes is her first novel.

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