Emmett Conn is 92 years old and living in the United States. He is originally a Turkish immigrant who plays down his roots. He has also buried his past history deep in the recesses of his mind - and now at this stage of his life certain events have a constant replay bringing him anguish and guilt over his part in the genocide and how he behaved as a youngster when he was a gendarme in the Turkish army.
Emmett begins to have these dreams, and specially the part played by Araxie an Armenian girl with whom he fell in love with and the period when he was taking his group of refugees to Syria. The violence, the deaths, the murders is this what actually happened and what he has forced himself to forget or is this a dream of his and just that a dream? Emmett is beginning to lose his grip both physically and mentally (he is now suffering with a brain tumour) and he is wanting to make contact with Araxie and beg her forgiveness for his part in her sufferring. How Emmett successfully makes contact with Araxie's grand daughter is also part of this story - what was interesting is that he successfully managed to evade the nurses at a psychiatric facility where he was admitted to get away to New York to track down Araxie.
I had no knowledge of the Armenian genocide nor of the forced deportation of Armenians to Syria, their fate at the hands of both Turks and Syrians. Neither was I aware that this is one part of history that Turks do not mention as it is for them something unpleasant that happened over a hundred years ago and is now best forgotton. I doubt that the children and grandchildren of those who survived look on the Armenian genocide in quite that way. I was very glad of the footnote that I found at the end of the book by the author giving details of the genocide and a small, potted history of the Armenians. It certainly added to my understanding of the story.
The author deals with the past and the present in this story. We have flashbacks to the actual period of the genocide and then to the present context in America and the life Emmett leads now. The comparison and contrast goes on throughout the book. The past is so linked with the present - though it is only in Emmett's own world which he has obviously not shared even with his children. The two parts of his life are in two compartments and linking them together is what has brought about the upheaval in his mind.
This was a very provoking read for me. Discrimination of the kind faced by the Armenians is very much alive today - having finished a civil war in my own country we are more than ever aware of this. Even a few voices in dissent against such discrimination will always help.