IN FINDING HOME , David Kherdian illuminates the immigrants' experience in America with his story of an Armenian girl who settles in Wisconsin. This novel is a sequel to the Newbery Honor Book The Road From HOME Kherdian's moving and poetic account of his mother's girlhood in Turkey during the Turkish attempt to exterminate its Armenian population. In 1915, at age 8, Vernon Dumehjian began a forced march to Syria where most of here family died. In 1922 she fled the burned city of Smyrna for Greece, where she met the family of Melkon "Mike" Kherdian, an Armenian living in Racine, Wisconsin, and agreed to become his mail-order bride.
Finding Home details veron's voyage from Greece to the United States, her stay on Ellis Island, and her adjustment both to her new country and her life as a bride. veron is 16 when she marries a 32-year-old man with different background and temperament from her own. Suffering, war and exile abruptly ended her childhood. Now, although free and at peace in America, she must not only assume the responsibilities of marriage, but work out the delicate relationships with the members of Mike's family who attempt to govern her live. "I have come to the land of my dreams," she writes to her aunt. "At the same time it seems more and more that nowhere is there a final solution or resting place or peace. . . . In truth, my worries are small, and they seem large only because they conflict with my dreams."
Veron responds to her circumstances with vitality and intelligence. She replaces her dreams -- to go to college, to savor her youth and freedom in America before she is hurried into marriage -- with a determination to build a home and a healthy, independent life for herself and Mike. Without self-pity, she reconizes her problems and altered expectations, and at the same time is grateful for her fresh start. Scarred by her experiences in Turkey, she has a deep "need to see the good and the beautiful," and she finds it in poignantly simple things: a picnic near a lovely college campus, or her only wedding present, pillowcases embroidered by Mike's cousin, a tuberculosis patient at the Milwaukee Veterans' Hospital.
Veron's situation and feelings mirror those of the other Armenians in Racine. Mike's friend Vartan, separated from his wife and child during the massacres, does not know if he will find them again. Lucy, Veron's friend, also married to an older man, is melancholy although he is kind and generous. Everyone has lost family and friends. Many of the women are orphans and mail-order brides, brought to America to help rebuild an Armenian community. Kherdian shows that their life as immigrants is not easy. He describes the crowded discomfort and uncertainty about the future for those held at Ellis Island, the strangeness of arrival in new cities, the long hours at hard work, often two jobs for those who must save to bring their families over. He also conveys his characters' strength and resilience and the promise America holds. Because Kherdian does not sentimentalize the immigrants' experience in this "land of opportunity," the moments of courage, beauty and hope shine with an extra brightness.
Finding Home is a plain and honest book, the style and tone reflecting the condition of its characters. It is not as dramatic, gripping, or gilttering with images as The Road From Home , but it deals with a different time and situation, and explores the human heart in quieter ways. The two books stand separately, but together they enrich each other greatly. They show the heroism needed to survive violence and catastrophe, and the heroism that helps us face life and rebuild.