Book Review: Orhan's Inheritance

Orhan's Inheritance
Published By: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Page Count: 352
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Historical Fiction

Exquisitely heartbreaking and unforgettable. That is my four word review of Orhan’s Inheritance, by Aline Ohanesian. 

 After Orhan’s grandfather who founded the family’s successful international textiles business dies, he leaves the company to Orhan in contradiction of Turkish custom and bequeaths the family home to a stranger living in LA. With the family in disarray, Orhan leaves Turkey to visit the elderly woman, find her connection to his family, and see if she might be willing to sign the home back over to him so his father and aunt can continue living there. 

Do not let the brightness of the prose or the ease of getting into the story fool you. The second story line of Orhan’s Inheritance takes place during a dark and turbulent time in Armenian and Turkish history, the Armenian genocide of 1915-1917. As the two storylines come together, the reader is propelled into the convergence and all the emotions that Orhan, the elderly mystery woman, and her niece experience. I think you have to be a little bit brave to read this book to the end, but you will be greatly rewarded if you do.

In her extraordinary debut, Aline Ohanesian has created two remarkable characters—a young man ignorant of his family’s and his country’s past, and an old woman haunted by the toll the past has taken on her life.

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.