Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Requiem, Armenian Style

Shushanig Chahbaghlian is an Armenian Orthodox refugee from Marseille who converted to the Salvation Army as a young girl. She meets Albert Hodder, a third-generation Salvationist whose roots are firmly planted in England but who aspires to serve God in the Belgian Congo.  Shushanig and Albert fall in love, marry and have children while pursuing their religious vocation in France, England and Canada, first as officers of the Salvation Army, then as ministers of several evangelical churches in or near Montreal.

Middle daughter Ruth breaks away from religion altogether and makes her life in Winnipeg, which is where her parents relocate after Shushanig becomes ill with Alzheimer’s disease. As the worlds of Albert and Ruth collide, she embarks on the journey of saving her mother’s story and claiming her sorrowful but rich Armenian heritage.

Within this family’s very personal microcosm are universal themes of faith and disbelief, loss and hope, the clashing—and claiming—of cultural identity and memory, and the complexity of caring for people with disabilities in our families and society as a whole.

Ruth Madeleine Hodder has published several personal essays and articles in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias; Illness, Crisis and Loss; Journal of Loss & Trauma; the Globe and Mail; the Winnipeg Free Press; and Revue André Malraux Review. She lives in Winnipeg with her husband Günter Krause and their dog Sam. This is her first book.


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