A breathtaking novel that follows a young woman named Ani Silver through college, a long sojourn in Paris, and a string of romantic entanglements, all of which lead her to confront the legacy of her Armenian family's tragic past.
At the book's opening, Ani is a bright, trusting young woman, passionately in love with Asa Willard: a New England boy with a trust fund as big as his appetites, and the farthest thing possible from the old world accents and superstitions that filled the childhood home she shared with her widowed mother and her Armenian grandparents. After college, she sets off for Paris in pursuit of education and adventure, safe in the belief that Asa is devoted and waiting for her to come home, where they'll marry and live a simple American life. But just as she is beginning to lose herself to the beauty and mystery of her new city, she receives a letter from Asa that shatters her dreams for the future. Newly unanchored, she confronts the puzzle of her individual and cultural identity for the first time, a puzzle that is enhanced and complicated by the resurfacing of a childhood friend, Van Ardavanian. Van is an elusive and beguiling character, an intense, single-minded young man whose preoccupation with the Armenian heritage they share verges on the obsessive. He shows Ani a whole new way of looking at the world, turns her eyes to a tragic heritage she has shut out, and opens doors to parts of her identity that she has never before acknowledged. But Van cannot deliver her to herself any more than Asa could, and through him Ani learns that passion and idealism can have dark consequences.
Through a new constellation of friends and acquaintances in this foreign city, Ani comes to ask the questions about herself and the continuum she is a part of, and when Van disappears under dubious and mysterious circumstances, Ani returns home determined to puzzle out her past-- that of her father, David Silver, a Jew from NYC who was killed in a car accident when Ani was only five; that of David's family, who cut him and his new family off the moment he married Ani's Armenian mother; and finally, that of Ani's grandmother and grandfather whose gut-wrenching experiences during Armenian massacres at the hands of the Turks spill out once and for all, only at Ani's tentative prompting.
Having learned the hard way that she cannot use other people as conduits through which to find herself, Ani ultimately comes to demand access to the rooms of her past that have been denied her. Infused with warmth and humor, Dreams of Bread and Fire is an irresistible novel that addresses a question that has faced every generation in this country: whether it is possible to achieve the neat simplicity of American life once we've arrived here without denying the haunting legacies of the places we've fled from.
About Nancy Kricorian
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Published September 3, 2013
by Grove Press.
Literature & Fiction.