Summary and book reviews of Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian

Orhan's Inheritance

by Aline Ohanesian

Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian X
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2016, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

Moving between the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the 1990s, a story of passionate love, unspeakable horrors, incredible resilience, and the hidden stories that haunt a family.

When Orhan's brilliant and eccentric grandfather Kemal - a man who built a dynasty out of making kilim rugs - is found dead, submerged in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But Kemal's will raises more questions than it answers. He has left the family estate to a stranger thousands of miles away, an aging woman in an Armenian retirement home in Los Angeles. Her existence and secrecy about her past only deepen the mystery of why Orhan's grandfather willed his home in Turkey to an unknown woman rather than to his own son or grandson.

Left with only Kemal's ancient sketchbook and intent on righting this injustice, Orhan boards a plane to Los Angeles. There he will not only unearth the story that eighty-seven-year-old Seda so closely guards but discover that Seda's past now threatens to unravel his future. Her story, if told, has the power to undo the legacy upon which his family has been built. 

Moving back and forth in time, between the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the 1990s, Orhan's Inheritance is a story of passionate love, unspeakable horrors, incredible resilience, and the hidden stories that can haunt a family for generations.

Excerpt
Orhan's Inheritance

They found him inside one of the seventeen cauldrons in the courtyard, steeping in an indigo dye two shades darker than the summer sky. His arms and chin were propped over the copper edge, but the rest of Kemal Turkoglu, age eighty-nine, had turned a pretty pale blue. Orhan was told the old men of the village stood in front of the soaking corpse, fingering their worry beads, while their sons waited, holding dice from abandoned backgammon games. Modesty forbade any female spectators, but within hours the news spread from one kitchen and vendor's stall to the next. Orhan's grandfather, his dede, had immersed his body, naked except for his britches, into a vat of fabric dye outside their family home.

Orhan sinks into the back seat of the private car, a luxury he talked himself into when the dread of a seven-hour bus ride back to the village started to overwhelm his grief. He wanted to mourn in private, away from the chickens, the elderly, the...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Setting plays such a significant role in Orhan's Inheritance. How do the two settings, Karod village in Turkey and the Ararat Home in Los Angeles, affect the characters?
  2. Why do you think Kemal dies the way he does? What is the symbolism of the vat of dye?
  3. Orhan's early photography was so focused on abstraction that he failed to see the world around him clearly. How does Orhan's early photography compare with his later work, when he takes up the camera again? In what way does he see the world differently? What role do photography and drawing play in the novel? What is the connection between photography and memory?
  4. Do you think words construct meaning differently than visual images do, whether drawn or photographed?
  5. Do ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The story Seda eventually narrates to Orhan is both touching and appalling as she describes the way ethnic Armenians were treated by their Turkish neighbors and friends. One wouldn't expect a book that details a genocide to be trauma-free, but the author makes a conscious choice to soften the horror; she alerts readers early on, for example, to the fates which befall Seda's family members. This is both a strength and a weakness; on the one hand, it prevents this tragic tale from overwhelming sensitive readers, but on the other, it dilutes the emotional impact, lessening the shock value as scenes revealed earlier are relayed in more detail.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

Booklist

Ohanesian does a remarkable job of conveying the weight and the influence of time and place without excusing or excluding the human dimension that necessarily factors into the unfolding cataclysm.

Library Journal

Unforgettable . . . Drawing on the stories her Armenian great-grandmother told her, Ohanesian brings to life a painful, tragic history unfamiliar to most Americans.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A harrowing tale of unimaginable sacrifice ... A novel that delves into the darkest corners of human history and emerges with a tenuous sense of hope.

Author Blurb Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train
Orhan's Inheritance is a breathtaking and expansive work of historical fiction and proof that the past can sometimes rewrite the future.

Author Blurb Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon
To take the tumultuous history of Turks and Armenians in the early part of this century, and to tell the stories of families and lovers from the small everyday moments of life to the terrible journeys of death, to make a novel so engrossing and keep us awake - that is an accomplishment, and Aline Ohanesian's first novel is such a wonderful accomplishment.

Author Blurb Chris Bohjalian, author of The Sandcastle Girls
Readers who were moved by the work of Carol Edgarian, Mark Mustian, and Nancy Kricorian will appreciate the historical authenticity and passion that Aline Ohanesian brings to this story of the Armenian Genocide. Orhan's Inheritance is heartfelt and sincere.

Author Blurb Gayle Brandeis, author of Delta Girls
From its first startling image, Orhan's Inheritance will seep under your skin and leave an indelible mark upon your heart. What lucky readers we are to inherit Aline Ohanesian's gorgeous work.

Author Blurb Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America
Orhan's Inheritance is a remarkable debut from an important new voice. It tells us things we thought we knew and shows us we had no idea. Beautiful and terrible and, finally, indelible.

Reader Reviews

Beckyh

ORHAN'S INHERITANCE by Aline Ohanesian
The discord between the Turks and the Armenians comes alive in Ohanesian’s book that details three generations of those two groups that once occupied the same land. The book begins in 1990 with the reading of a will. Orhan, a Turk, has been left ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Kilim

In Orhan's Inheritance, Orhan and his family are makers of kilim rugs, a type of carpet manufactured in Turkey using a technique referred to as "flatweave" (i.e., a rug that is woven rather than knotted). Dating back to at least 4th century China, this type of rug is common throughout Central Asia, and is known as a palas (Ukraine); liat (Caucasia); chilim (Syria and Lebanon) and gelim (Iran).

A kilim When talking about carpets, the most important terms to understand are "warp" and "weft." The warp, the series of vertical threads that are tautly stretched across a frame to form a sort of scaffolding for the rug, is generally made of cotton because the fiber is relatively strong and can be spun finer than most other materials.

The ...

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