First things first- Can someone explain to me why The Gendarme is categorized as “Psychological Thrillers” on Amazon? I was thinking it was like Historical semi-fiction with a touch of Romance. True, it builds and builds up to a sad and somewhat shocking conclusion, but Psychological Thriller, it is not.
Emmett Cohn is a 91 year old widow that lives in Georgia. He falls in his front yard and when being checked out at the hospital he learns that he has a brain tumor. Suddenly he starts having these vivid dreams from his past, yet they don’t jive with what little remembers from his past.
Emmett fought on the Turkish side during WWI and after a head injury, his amnesia was so severe, he was really never able to remember anything that happened during his service. Luckily, he met Carol, an American nurse in a British hospital. They fell in love and he started all over with Carol in America.
But in these dreams, these dreams that feel less like dreams and more like memories, he is a Gendarme in charge of moving the Armenians out of Turkey. Brutality, starvation, rape, you name it happens on this forced march of Armenians. Emmett, then Ahmet, is the leader. His job is to get this hated group of people across the border, out of Turkey. Was he not a soldier? Did he take part in the Armenian genocide?
The story floats back and forth effortlessly. In one chapter, we have Emmett being taken to doctors appointments to deal with tumor by his daughter. Their relationship has always been strained because of her past. The next chapter, he is dreaming of crossing a desert with half naked starving people, forcing them along.
Early on in the dreams he comes across one young woman that catches his eye. Or really, her eyes catch his eye. She has one blue eye and one green one. For some reason, he holds back from brutalizing her. He tries to protect her and their relationship grows.
The story goes on, but it grabs you. Are memories important if you no longer remember them? What happened to the one that got away in war time? Did they survive?
Mark Mustian is a brave man. In fiction, he has confronted issues that entire governments and their people continue to ignore or attempt to sweep under the carpet. Approximately 500,000 Armenians lost their lives from 1914-1918 with these forced marches and massacres. Even in the “Author’s Note”, Mustian notes that he had problems getting a native Turkish speaker to look over his manuscript because the genocide was still such a touchy subject.
Books entertain us, they keep us company on a dark stormy night, but most importantly, they educate us. They can do this with a story or straight facts, but no matter how they do all of these things, they are important. We need to continue to grow as humans so that open our eyes and don’t make the same mistakes over and over again. Mark Mustian does us a service with The Gendarme, make sure that we never forget…..and never stop learning…or forgetting that compassion is our greatest gift.
The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (September 2, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399156348
- ISBN-13: 978-0399156342
For another review of The Gendarme, check out Amy Reads