The Road From Home is the harrowing tale of one girl's experience of the Armenian genocide. In 1915, the Ottoman Turks instituted the systematic massacre and deportation of Armenians. Over the course of the next few years, it's estimated that somewhere between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians died.
Veron Dumehjian, the author's mother, was caught up in the middle of this atrocity. The Road from Home tells the remarkable story of how she managed to survive this darkest chapter of her country's history. It also deals with the disturbingly perennial theme of man's inhumanity to man, which manifests itself most graphically in acts of genocide.
What is all the more disturbing about such inhumanity is that it was always there among the Turks alongside which the Armenians lived, lurking just beneath the surface. Generally speaking, Turks and Armenians in Veron's hometown of Azizya got along quite well. But once the genocide was formally unleashed by the Ottoman authorities, that all changed.
The philosopher and political thinker Hannah Arendt famously talked of “the banality of evil,” meaning that evil acts don't necessarily have to be carried out by evil people. They can be carried out by those who believe that they're doing their duty by carrying out orders.
Although Arendt was referring to the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews, much the same concept applies to the Armenian genocide. The low-level functionaries of the Ottoman bureaucracy who implemented the policy of mass murder evidently believed that they were merely doing their duty and simply following orders.
In any case, whether Ottoman bureaucrats were evil or not, the actions they carried out were undoubtedly evil, leading as they did to death and suffering on a massive scale. Whether it's expressed through bureaucratic orders written at a desk by some official or through the brutality of soldiers, man's inhumanity to man is an ever-present component of the human condition.
What happened to the Armenians would also, over the course of the next century, happen to the Jews of Europe, Ukrainians in the Soviet Union, Bosnian Muslims, and the Tutsi of Rwanda. The experiences of Veron and her people, then, can be seen as a microcosm of a universal feature of human history and as having significance for us all.