Title: The Road From Home
Author: David Kherdian
Publication Date: 1995 (originally published in 1979)
Length: 242 pages
Genre: Memoir/biography, YA
Perhaps it’s morbid of me, but I’ve always had a fascination with the awful side of human nature- what we do to each other in the name of who-knows-what.
As much as it hurts to delve into it, I can’t help but do so.
Considering the large amount of books on the subject it’s probably not surprising that the awful thing I’ve read about the most is the holocaust.
Of course, this isn’t a journal entry about a holocaust themed book.
The thing is, I’ve always wondered why so many other incidences don’t receive the same treatment as those awful years during the 30s and 40s. Perhaps it’s the scope of what happened in WWII, or the more recent quality of it, but nevertheless it’s still a noticeable difference. This isn’t to say that it shouldn’t be such a focus of attention or study, but rather the fact that I’ve always wondered… where are the other books.
Thus, when I found this book sitting amongst all the James Patterson paperbacks I had to pick it up.
Long Road from Home is the story of a girl living in Turkey in the 1910s- Veron, the author’s mother and a survivor of the Armenian genocide.
The story spans roughly from 1913 – 1924, from the time that Veron is about six, until she’s a teenager. The world the reader is introduced to is that of a young child’s, with the focus on the close-knit extended family- nights giggling with a cousin while everyone else tried to sleep, complaints about going to the baths and enduring scrub-downs – until that world crumples around her and her family is torn apart when part of them (including Veron) are forced from their homes and onto a grueling and uncertain journey across the country.
Kherdian does a wonderful job at capturing this changing world and making it as familiar to the reader as he can. So many elements of Veron’s culture are integrated throughout the story, pieces of the puzzle that makes up Veron’s life. Additionally, he doesn’t shy away from the hardships that Veron and her family endure, although they are at times obscured by Veron’s age and lack of experience, at least initially. That world, as said previously, is that of a younger child, even as the horrific events begin to unfold. It isn’t until later in the story, and subsequent events, that the reader begins to get a full open-eyed perspective- which matures as Veron does.
At times, however, the story struggles. There is a heavy reliance on telling, rather than showing, and while the events are harrowing, and tragic, there is sometimes an emotional disconnect. I think part of this stems from the author trying to tell so large of a story in so short a period of time. It feels as if certain emotional beats are underdeveloped- some sections not given quite the gravity that they should have, in order for the whole story to be told. This is, perhaps, the problem at times with stories about one’s family, as this story is. One knows the entire story already, all the elements having already taken place, the question then becomes not where the story should go, but where to begin and where to end and which parts to prune off in the middle. I feel as if this story could have done with a bit more pruning, or perhaps the opposite- some extended details- especially at the end, which seems to drop off rather sharply.
Ultimately, I’m glad I read the book, as I walked away from it having learned about something, but I hate that I struggled to connect with the protagonist. While I’m keeping it for my classroom library, this one’s probably not a reread for me.