Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gray Wolves and White Doves

Author:         John D. Balian
Published:   2011
Publisher:    BookSurge Publishing
Paperback: 440  pages
To bomb or not to bomb ? This is the moral dilemma which Jonah  faces. Jonah is a 16-year old Armenian boy, branded as a terrorist by the Turkish police, recruited by Armenian Liberation Army (ALA) to plant a bomb in a Turkish Airlines flight. .
As he is grappling with his dilemma at the Orly Airport, Paris  he suddenly sees someone known to him in his childhood days calling out to him and moving towards him hurriedly.
After this thriller like beginning, the novel "Gray Wolves and White Doves" transforms itself into an poignant , inspiring and heartwarming Oliver Twist/ The Kite Runner-like story of a young boy's struggle against all odds and adversities. 
The book now takes the readers back by 11 years to the time when Jonah (then called Hannah) is a five-year old kid growing up in a remote village in Anatolia, Turkey.
Hannah's family and other kinsmen are survivors of the Armenian Genocide inflicted upon the Armenians by Ottoman Empire during World War -I. Even in 1960s they  still live under the threat of Turkish authorities .
After Hannah's mother's death under tragic circumstances he is sent to an Armenian seminary in Jerusalem for his education which would hopefully lead to a better quality of life. However things are not all that rosy in the seminary. Hannah (now called Jonah) gets frequently taunted and discriminated against by the inmates as he hails from a Turkish village. He has to struggle hard to establish his credentials as an Armenian while hoping for a bright future in America, the land of opportunity.
Once again due to circumstances Jonah has to leave the seminary and wander like a destitute across Europe being pursued by Turkish police. He lands up joining ALA to avenge the atrocities committed during Armenian Genocide.
The story now switches back to the thriller mode and tells us how the dilemma which Jonah faced in the beginning of this book is resolved.  You have to read the book to find this out. I don't want to spoil your reading experience.

"Gray Wolves and White Doves" is a semi-autobiographical novel by , Dr. John D. Balian an Armenian immigrant who grew up in locations and situations similar to that of Jonah. He has made it big in USA as a senior executive in a  multinational corporation.  This is his debut novel and has received rave reviews  in . 102 out of 104 readers have given it a 5-star rating. Some reviewers have compared this book with Dickens' novels and I do agree with them.

The story has an universal appeal which will strike a chord with anyone who reads it.
The character of Hannah/Jonah is very well brought out and readers will surely empathize with his struggles.
Narration is  vivid and I could almost visualize all the events described in the story. However a short contextual note by the author in the beginning of the book explaining the geopolitical and sociological situation prevailing in the Middle East region in 1960s and 70s would have enabled the readers to appreciate this book even better.
The writing style is simple and easy to understand . This by itself is a rare achievement because very few people  having a  strong scientific background like Dr. Balian who is a highly qualified physician , can write in a style that masses can relate to.

Certainly a very good read for readers of all ages and all walks of life !

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