Three Apples Fell from the Sky by Narine Abgaryan – Book Review

Three Apples Fell from the Sky by Narine Abgaryan – Book Cover

If they compare Narine Abgarjan’s book to “One Hundred Years of Solitude” on the cover, you’re forced to do the same, measuring it here and there; for example, the part of the text about the rooster isn’t quite right, but when the mold consumes everything, it’s entirely as if García Márquez himself wrote it. Then around page 40-50, you realize it’s entirely pointless to compare anything; “Three Apples Fell from the Sky” stands on its own, thank you very much. Granted, it doesn’t condense the history of half a continent into 100 years, but rather narrates about 90 years of an Armenian mountain village, but it does so in such a beautiful, uniformly undulating style that you’d be tempted to move there—unless you fear being permanently cut off from the internet and having to work your butt off for your daily bread.

Anatolia and Vasily, the two lonely widowers, are being pushed towards each other by their acquaintances. And while you wait for Vasily to finally make a move—because his chosen one, who expects nothing more from life, is just lying down to die—the story weaves around these characters, jumping back and forth in time, painting the lives of two or three generations of ancestors, relatives, friends, and neighbors. Us Hungarians, there’s no doubt we’ve had our fair share of trouble in our history. Well, Armenians have had about five times as much. Still, the national tragedy, the “great massacre” is only hinted at in two throwaway sentences; the emphasis is far from the trials and tribulations.

“Three Apples Fell from the Sky” is a paean to the ancestors, to the village, to the peasant way of life in the positive sense, which has largely disappeared there as well, just like here. The style, while not magical realism, comes close to it; it’s fairy-tale-like, but not really a fairy tale. What might throw it off its course a bit is when the narrative parts are outweighed by dialogues, like Vasily’s urban adventures towards the end of the story; those are a bit off: Vasily couldn’t really be this simple-minded. But you easily believe that more or less everything could have happened like this. (The supernatural elements surrounding two other characters seamlessly fit into the story.)

Meanwhile, the best supporting character is a dog: Patro.

You can jot down the food too, to check them on some recipe website. (I got curious about Armenian yogurt soup.)

And you can marvel at how in a community, the “May the neighbor’s cow die too!” principle isn’t the most characteristic, as it is with us, but rather, if someone needs help, they’ll lend a hand. (And you say this even though a clueless douchebag and his annoying, nosy, cauliflower-eared, bitchy wife are your neighbors, may the good Lord kick them in the rear!!)

There’s a lesson too: it’s never too late to find happiness. Even if it sounds cheesy. And this lesson is also wrapped in quite a bitter pill; sentimentality isn’t really typical of this novel. Not like with the short stories following the novel, which, well, let’s say they feel like typical soppy, women’s writing. But you read through them to speculate about who corresponds to whom in the novel, and in the process, you find yourself feeling quite sad.


Three Apples Fell from the Sky by Narine Abgaryan
256 pages, Paperback
Published in 2020 by Oneworld Publications

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