Between the Stillness and the Grove

Publisher: Vintage Canada
The triumphs of love and friendship after tragedy are at the heart of this compelling and poignant novel of two complex and unforgettable women. A story of loss set in the aftermath of the 1915—1918 genocide of the Armenian people by the Turkish government, the novel moves through layers of time to show the far-reaching effects of war and displacement. Evolving partly in the mountainous landscape of Armenia and partly in the clear light and healing waters of Portugal, Erika de Vasconcelos’s magnificent and heartrending second novel explores the redemptive qualities of friendship and reminds us of the power of art and love.

In the late 1980s, during the last years of Communism in Soviet-controlled Armenia, Dzovig meets her lover Tomas at a nationalist march. Tomas is a patriot, obsessed with the ruined churches that testify to the country’s glorious past before the horrors of the twentieth century. When he later takes his own life with a gun, his reasons are a mystery to his parents and his lover. Numbed and fearless, Dzovig uses sex to buy her way out of the country she hates. She lives first in Moscow, then finds refuge in Portugal. Working for a kind restaurant owner in Lisbon, she learns Portuguese and meets Tito, a wealthy young man with a muscle-wasting disease. Through Tito she discovers the poet Fernando Pessoa and his celebration of the human ability to fashion multiple lives. Tito leads Dzovig part of the way out of her pain, yet wherever she goes, she cannot leave Armenia behind.

A tragic past, one that goes back to her own childhood, also haunts Vecihe, Tomas’s warm and caring mother. While Dzovig tries to flee her past, Vecihe has so far managed to keep the memories at bay through silence. She searches for Dzovig, yearning to connect, all the while struggling with her son’s death, the estrangement within her marriage, and her unspoken thoughts and knowledge. Agonizing truths keep seeping through, however, and her recollections become progressively deeper and darker until she is at last forced to confront the devastating memory of her mother’s account of the death march to Syria. Finally, changed and starting anew, Vecihe finds a haven in Canada. When she offers sanctuary to Dzovig, she reminds the young woman whom she thinks of as a daughter that “our worst pain comes out of silence.”

Told with the beautiful language and a striking sensitivity, Between the Stillness and the Grove is a major work of fiction that proves Erika de Vasconcelos an exceptionally talented and original writer. Whereas her first novel, My Darling Dead Ones, drew on personal experience and family history, here the author explores new territory. To research the book she spent ten days in Armenia and read transcripts of conversations with Armenians who survived the 1915 massacre, as well as accounts by Holocaust survivors. Many of the elderly Armenians she interviewed had never before spoken about their experience, about the anger and fear that had remained hidden inside them throughout their adult lives.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Prologue

There is the sea. Dzovig is staring at it. She does this often in the early hours of the morning, makes her way to the wall at the edge of the beach, determined, like an addict seeking out her drug. And the sea is never very far in this country: Portugal, a thin strip of land stretching along the Atlantic,...
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PRAISE FOR

"De Vasconcelos understands the deep-rooted relationship between soil and soul,...the power women wield, its tenacity and passion....She makes the commonplace dance, while a wordless sensuality bubbles beneath the surface, waiting to erupt." —The Financial Post

“Erika de Vasconselos’s new novel, Between the Stillness and the Grove, a poignant saga of love and loss,…Avoiding romantic flamboyance, de Vasconcelos focuses on the worst pain that comes out of silence.” --The Globe and Mail

“Throughout, the warmth, the generosity and weary wisdom of Vecihe’s first-person confessional narration envelops the reader, the flow of her memories intimate and laden with emotion and sensual detail” --The Toronto Star

“…her writing on the subject of Vecihe’s past and present life is warm and achingly real.” --Quill and Quire

“It is extremely well-researched and thought provoking.” --Winnipeg Free Press


From the Hardcover edition.