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Orhan's Inheritance
by Aline Ohanesian

Published: 2015-04-07
Hardcover : 352 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 4 members
They found him inside one of 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 Türkoglu, age ninety-three, had turned a pretty pale blue.

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They found him inside one of 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 Türkoglu, age ninety-three, had turned a pretty pale blue.

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

Intent on righting this injustice, Orhan boards a plane to Los Angeles. There, over many meetings, he will unearth the story that eighty-seven-year-old Seda so closely guards--the story that, if told, has the power to undo the legacy upon which Orhan’s family is built, the story that could unravel Orhan’s own future.

Moving 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 haunt a family.

“A remarkable debut from an important new voice . . . Beautiful and terrible and, finally, indelible.” —Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America

“To take the tumultuous history of Turks and Armenians in the early part of the past century, 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.” —Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon

“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.” —Gayle Brandeis, author of Delta 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.”  —Chris Bohjalian, author of The Sandcastle Girls

“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.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of April 2015: “Places and things stay with us, and sometimes we stay with them.” Remembering the past can be a tricky business and for those who experienced dark times in history the memories they may most want to forget are the very ones that future generations insist that they share. Orhan’s Inheritance begins in a small village in Turkey, with the death of a patriarch, Kemal, who bequeaths the family home to a woman his heirs have never heard of. Kemal’s grandson, Orhan, finds her across the world in a home for elderly Armenians and their meeting leads to a long buried account of two people deeply in love, torn apart by war and terrible sacrifice. Aline Ohanesian’s debut novel is rich in emotion and its roots run deep and wide, tapping into a largely neglected time in Turkish history, spanning decades, and honoring the resilience of the human spirit. --Seira Wilson


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. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

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. How are Orhan and Seda similar when it comes to their relationship with their pasts? What is Ani’s perspective on the past? What do you think these characters learn from one another?

6. Do your feelings about Fatma change in the course of the novel? If so, how?

7. Why does Lucine feel that she and Kemal can never be together?

8. There are many instances of individual and collective guilt in the story as exemplified in the war scenes with Kemal and his soldier friends. Do you think there’s such a thing as collective guilt? If so, is it easier to bear and what are its effects?

9. How do Fatma’s parables illustrate or refute her attitude toward words?

10. Once Orhan knows about his family’s and country’s history, how do you think he should respond? Do you think he’s done enough by the end of the novel?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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by Michelle L. (see profile) 10/31/19

by Kelly F. (see profile) 04/25/19

by Beth O. (see profile) 09/12/16

by Barb W. (see profile) 07/28/16

  "Orhan's Inheritance"by Carol L. (see profile) 05/10/16

Too many characters & couldn't keep my interest.

by Corrine S. (see profile) 04/12/16

  "Orhans inheritance"by Carolyn R. (see profile) 11/27/15

I knew very little about this part of history so in that respect it peaked my interest and does make me want to know a bit more. I wanted a little more from the ending but not quite sure how else it could... (read more)

  "The Armenian genocide, like the Holocaust, should be remembered to prevent history from repeating itself."by Gail R. (see profile) 09/15/15

Orhan’s Inheritance, Aline Ohanesian, author, Assaf Cohen, narrator
Based on the author’s background and actual history, this book tells the story of the Armenian genocide that has for
... (read more)

  "One of the best books this year"by Wendy G. (see profile) 05/29/15

I didn't know what to expect when I started this book - but it grabbed my attention immediately. I was unable to put the book down - fabulous story line - great writing

  "ORHAN”S INHERITANCE by Aline Ohanesian"by Becky H. (see profile) 05/28/15

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 199... (read more)

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