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The Wishing Tree

Guest Post by Robert Lamb

It was Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman who said, “War is hell.” If you have any doubt that the general was dead right, run and get a copy of The Wishing Tree by Matthew A. Hamilton. You’ll see war up close and personal in his excellent account of the Armenian genocide by the Turks in the early 1900s.

Hamilton, a Richmond, VA writer and former Peace Corps volunteer, shows us through the eyes of a young Christian girl in Armenia how war unleashes unspeakable human savagery in the name of ethnic cleansing.

It is April 1915 and the Turks’ Ottoman Empire, which has lasted for centuries, is on the verge of defeat by the allied forces of Great Britain and the Arabs. In the novel’s first few pages, the heroine, Valia, a teenager, sees her parents, siblings, and neighbors, all Christians, murdered by Turkish “police soldiers,” and flees for her life.

Thus begins an odyssey the reader won’t soon forget. The author’s account of Valia’s struggle to stay alive and hopeful is a hymn to the human spirit, and the story is nothing short of realistic and gripping.

Adding a nice touch of realism, even Lawrence of Arabia and Arab Prince Faisal make cameo appearances near the story’s end.

OK, film producers; you can’t say I didn’t give you a heads up on this novel.

The Wishing Tree by Matthew A. Hamilton. Winter Goose Publishing, September 2020.

Reviewer bio: Robert Lamb is the author of four novels and a book of short stories; he review books for the New York Review of Books; and he has a website at www.robertlamb.net.

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