Three Apples Fell From the Sky, by Narine Abgaryan (translated by Lisa C. Hayden)
Originally published in 2015
Literary, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Setting: A fictional town in Armenia
[CWs: domestic violence, death, blood]
'And three apples fell from heaven;
One for the storyteller
One for the listener,
And one for the eavesdropper.'
- Armenian folktale
This charming novel revolves around the small town of Maran, perched precariously on the side of a mountain, and it's residents - now just a few in their numbers, and all in the later stages of life. Most of the houses stand empty, slowly being reclaimed by nature, and the people left do not think life will ever get any better for them.
The book opens with Anatolia, who is the youngest of the townspeople at the age of 58. We meet her lying on her deathbed. Anatolia is inexplicably losing a lot of blood from a sudden, mystery illness, and rather than seeking medical assistance, she simply waits for death to come; but life, and the other residents of Maran, gets in the way of the plan she has resigned herself to.
Life has not been easy for Anatolia, or any of the 'Maranians' for that matter; in fact, life has thrown almost every imaginable tragedy their way. War, famine, natural disaster as well as numerous more personal tragedies have gradually chipped away at the population, leaving it set to become a ghost town as its remaining residents reach old age and leave the world one by one. But this is not a book of tragedy; it is uplifting, full of hope and embraces the reader like a warm hug, bringing you into the community of Maran as Anatolia and the others begin to find many reasons to keep on living, and to the fullest.
There are sprinklings of folklore and the mystical throughout the book, but much of the magic lies in the rustic simplicities of day to day life in Maran, which is filled with mishaps, playful humour and the resourceful resilience, superstitions and camaraderie of the townspeople. I absolutely loved getting to know the characters and their backstories, and I was desperately willing them to finally achieve the happiness that had flitted just out of reach for the entirety of some of their lives, and particularly for Anatolia. I think the quote on the cover is particularly apt - reading this really is like nourishing and healing the soul.