Library Journal (Starred Review)
Though we try to deny it, the past comes to get us in the end. It certainly comes for 92-year-old Emmett Conn after he is rushed to the hospital, felled by a tiny brain tumor. Emmett starts having dark and unsettling dreams of refugees marched through a barren landscape and dying off in droves owing to hunger, thirst, dysentery, and the whims of the gendarmes herding them. These aren't dreams but suppressed memories; Emmett is actually Ahmet Khan, a soldier in the Ottoman Army during World War I who was evacuated to London—he was mistaken for a British soldier—and then wed by an American nurse, who brought him stateside. What Ahmet is now recalling is his participation in the Armenian genocide. Yet on that march he scraped together enough humanity to rescue the charismatic Araxie, with whom he fell in love. VERDICT First novelist Mustian writes relentlessly, telling his haunting story in brief bursts of luminous yet entirely unsentimental prose and reminding us that, when life gets bloody, we had better watch out for our own humanity.
Every decade or so, I find a novel that I sense, just by reading the basic description, will become unforgettable; after reading only 20 pages of The Gendarme, my impression was confirmed with great force. For this decade, and this reader, The Gendarme is that extraordinary, unforgettable novel...
The New York Times Book Review
Mustian...tells a story that probes a timeless array of life's general adversities: the tricks of memory that enable us to carry on with our daily existence; the brash decisions and subsequent regrets of the young; the ever present need for forgiveness; the way a single event can be subject to many interpretations.
St. Petersburg Times
Mustian builds a compelling plot by alternating Emmett's present, a round of radiation treatments and angry sparring with his daughter Violet, with the slow cohering of memory in his dreams. As he remembers Araxie, he cannot help but seek her. He pursues her first in his sleep and then, in desperation when his dreams dry up, tries to discover her fate in the real world in this moving story of love and war.
...Mustian takes us through this horrendous period of history with objectivity. He does not assign blame. What emerges is a love story, one that transcends the misery of the human condition, forever changing everyone it touches.
Baton Rouge Advocate
...a well-plotted, well-told story with a powerful, moving message...
...what a novel...
...the novel effectively captures the human capacity for survival and redemption...
...Readers might be reminded of Ernest Hemingway's tale of Robert Jordan and his Spanish love in "For Whom the Bell Tolls"...
Southern Literary Review
...a brilliantly conceived and carefully crafted novel...
El Mundo (Spain)
...Through the author's exploration of the story and characters the true significance of his novel evolves. Is it possible to forget? Is it possible to forgive?...
New Books Magazine (UK)
...I congratulate Mark Mustian for having the courage and conviction to write this book...
The Historical Novel Society
...The Gendarme is highly recommended...
...The Gendarme is a remarkable work of fiction...
Ryedale Gazette & Herald (UK)
...War and its aftermath is the central theme to [this] unforgettable and heart-rending [novel]...
Panama City News-Herald
...Mustian's eloquent prose reveals how love triumphs in the moment of war and that the facets of humanity can endure...
San Francisco Chronicle
[An] ethereal examination of love and memory.
...the story will grab you by the throat...
The Gendarme is quite well done...I am not certain if any author, Armenian, Turk or other nationality, has attempted this...
...I would generally recommend it to anyone...
"One reads this masterful work thinking all the while of its literary cousins-The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Snow by Orhan Pamuk. Books such as these, novels like The Gendarme, writers like Mr. Mustian, keep our world afloat amidst the tempests of history. Humanity would no longer recognize itself, its enduring passions and cruelties and triumphs, without them."
— Bob Shacochis, National Book Award-winning author of Easy in the Islands and Swimming in the Volcano
"I love this book. The haunting lesson from this gifted writer is that even the legacy of war cannot triumph over the human spirit. Where there is love and humanity, the human spirit triumphs. Read it."
— Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of Prayers for Sale
"Why are war stories so often truly love stories? Because, as Mustian proves in The Gendarme, love in the face of war gives testimony that love endures our savagery, our violence, our hatred. In this powerful retelling of the horrible crimes committed against Armenians at the beginning of World War I, The Gendarme is a beautiful, haunting tale of survival and resilience.
— Julianna Baggott, New York Times bestselling author of The Madam and The Miss America Family
"The Gendarme does what few have the courage to do: haunted by memories of war crimes he committed under another name, he turns and enters his nightmare to find the woman who was his enemy then and now, decades later, is still his first great love. Mustian shows the reader what the face of history looks like without the makeup. Mainly, though, he paints an unforgettable portrait of the human spirit at its bravest and most resilient."
— David Kirby, member of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors, NEA and Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, and author of The Ha-Ha, National Book Award finalist for The House on Boulevard St.
"Ahmet Khan's spiritual transition to Emmet Conn is emotionally resonant. This is an important and unique journey told with compassion and a stirring sense of humanity."
— Atom Egoyan, award-winning director of the films Ararat and The Sweet Hereafter
"Mustian has written an extraordinary novel dealing with some of the most difficult issues of the twentieth century, issues that profoundly threaten this new century as well. The Gendarme explores humanity's capacity for large-scale evil and how that capacity expresses itself though ordinary, small-scale, individual lives. This is a harrowing and truly important novel by a splendid American writer."
— Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Hell and Good Scent from a Strange Mountain