The Ash Tree is a timeless story of the romance between an immigrant and a young American woman. They meet and marry and raise their family in the sunbaked Central Valley of California. Armen Ararat is a poet, a farmer, and then a businessman, who escaped from the nightmarish history of Armenians in Turkey early in the twentieth century. From 1930 to the 1970s, Armen and Artemis, his Armenian-American wife born in Connecticut, raise two sons and a daughter. The Ararats grow into vivid, quintessentially American characters in this powerful and beautifully written novel by Daniel Melnick - for more information about the author go to www.danielmelnick.com
Artemis and her daughter, Juliet, occupy the center of this world otherwise dominated by men. The dynamic, driven mother achieves a force and authority that challenge the limitations of her time and place. The daughter strives to develop into a forceful young woman in her own right, perceptive, artistic, and more at ease within herself than her mother.
Tigran is the older son – cautious, intense, solid – and Garo is the mercurial and risk-taking younger brother, forcing Tigran to try to protect him more than once against his will. Garo is passionate and charismatic. Large in spirit, he fearlessly embraces life, and he struggles against – yet is baffled by – the recoil of cruelty and evil he encounters. The family discovers that America is not the mythologized land of opportunity but is beset by the evils of poverty, war, racism, censorship, drugs, and corruption. The Ararats’ turbulent story reveals universal truths about the struggles of countless families, immigrant and native alike.
In this novel of survival, new life, and heartbreak, all five members of the Ararat family find their voices here and share telling this epic story of their striving to rise from the ashes of the past. The story moves back and forth among them: the immigrant husband and father, the powerful wife, their daughter, and finally the two sons. As the family rebounds in the aftermath of the genocide of Armenians in 1915, they realize themselves in the fertile yet hostile landscape of Central California, only for tragedy to find the Ararats again.
* * *
Excerpt from The Ash Tree:
“Armen remembered his first days in the fields when he felt the blinding sun blast his consciousness. At night on this reclaimed desert, the temperature dropped from 110 to 70, as the flatland descended into darkness. Suddenly you were almost invisible and bathed in numbing air. It was a blasted desolation you felt, reducing all the life you knew to your body and its basic functioning, breathing and sleeping, eating and excreting, killing or dying. Your mouth was silenced, and your eyes stared blankly at the blackened moonless fields.”
Praise for Daniel Melnick’s Hungry Generations:
The “thoughtful and engaging novel about three musicians…gives a vivid picture of Los Angeles. Against this background, Daniel Melnick depicts a tragic conflict between an old man and his son…For those who know serious music, it will be supremely satisfying.” – Times Literary Supplement
The “poetic story…imagines a master classical pianist named Alexander Petrov …more than combustible: it marks a collision of cultures and worlds.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer