Three Apple Fell From HeavenOctober 21, 2007
Three Apples Fell From Heaven is the chronicling of a small village in Ottoman Turkey during the Armenian Genocide. The novel is structured around a number of characters whose lives are destroyed by the events unfurling around them. Each story is in first person. Some accounts are by the Turks who approach the events with indifference or hostility, while others are the women and small children bearing witness to the killing and violence that is becoming a way of life, as first men are taken away and slaughtered, then eventually women and children. The stories are told by a cast of townspeople with the perspectives of daughters who are left behind, women who survive the disappearances with their status as prostitutes or servants for the more powerful Turkish families, dead bodies of men and children killed who are left to die (but come metaphorically back to tell their stories to the living inhabitants of the village), Turkish families who live with the Armenians in their midst, and an adolescent boy who is dressed up in woman’s clothing by his mother to keep him hidden.
“Rumor tells stories, this is the story she writes. Don’t believe her, she’s a liar of the first order. A mendacious tatterdemalion. A middle of the night whisperer. She follows you and circles your head like stinging bees in late summer. She is disjointed, disorderly, malapropos. She begins in the middle, she stops and starts; she is a wanderer” (1).
Marcom has crafted unknowable stories; those involved are dead or silent. All is rumors, suspicions; guesses snatched from family stories and old photographs. From these rumors and whispers she cobbles a world to give evidence for the dead, to speak their stories.
The novel illustrates the contrast between how characters perceive the events occurring around them as a way of life is being exterminated. Often Marcom casts scenes through a character’s eyes only to undermine it through someone else’s reading of the same event. Through this device she underscores the conflicted undercurrents of resistance. A good example of this is between the American Consul who has been stationed in Turkey and his Armenian serving woman Lucine.
The American Consul sees himself as a strong and powerful man as he stands examining himself in the mirror; refined as he wears his silk robe while waiting for his Armenian servant Lucine to bring him his tea. He’s an Ivy League man, the son of Long Island’s North Shore. He feels he is doing the woman a benign kindness and is indulgent towards her status as Armenian. As he examines himself, his attitudes towards the servant become clear. He sees their relationship as pleasant with the possibilities of sexual indulgences.
“He makes a map of Lucine’s body. He x’s pinkbrown nipples, her closed navel; he draws a straight line from her chest bone to her pubis. His mouth follows his demarcations. Degenerate, he whispers to his reflection and arching dripping brows… He lifts his fallow genitals. He cups his penis in his hand and gently pulls the foreskin back. He washes thoroughly” (87).
In contrast to the Consul’s objectifying and sensual perspective is that of Lucine as she interrupts the above scene with him examining himself in the mirror while waiting for her to bring his tea. Lucine sees the man as weak and indulgent, but as a means of survival.
“I reserve my voice with this man. I dole out words sparingly, like a frugal peasant woman; I understand that each word is a parcel of me. I give him Yes and Mister in his own language. In mine, with my soft breath like my steps, I tell him: blind blind blind. To me he is like a woman, or worse. He preens in front of the mirror. I have seen it from the corner of the room as I set down his breakfast. He is weak like a woman; he is gullible and stupid” (90).
The scorn Lucine feels for her employer is clear, although the American Consul is oblivious. These two scenes map the divide between thoughts and reality that allow these events to take place. Lucine’s world is one of rage and hidden words, tucked away for her survival, while the Consul is left unaware of the place he culturally inhabits.