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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Safir was only one of many lonely immigrants living in New York in the 1950s. It was post World War II and a lot of the immigrants had their own sad stories to share, ghosts that continued to haunt their daily lives. Named after the precious gem, Safir hasn’t seen her parents in Turkey since she left home before the war. And now they’re both dead. When a U.S. Senator appears on her doorstep, claiming to be her real father, Safir stumbles into uncharted territory, trying to understand the parents she believed were hers and the new father who claims she is his daughter. The story he shares takes her back in time to World War I and the atrocities that were inflicted on the Armenians. And then she finds the letters and her world breaks apart yet again.
Michael Ippen’s novel, Saint Illuminator’s Daughter, is a compelling story of family, love, war, and unsolved mysteries. There are multiple layers to this plot which unravels primarily as Safir’s story. As the Senator shares his story, another plot surfaces. When she reads the letters, even more stories unfold. And the mystery thickens. The characters are well developed and intense; the many settings are well described, inviting the reader right into the story. The author is well versed in early twentieth-century European history and his description of the realities of the horrors is to be commended. The ensuing conflicts of the time - between countries, between the many religious groups - embellish the unfolding drama. The plot wraps the reader in a firm embrace that doesn’t let up until the last page. This is a powerful story.