Spotlight on “All The Ways We Lied” by Aida Zilelian

by LitStack Editor

Meet the Manoukians—a dysfunctional Armenian family—and the fraying rope that binds them.

All The Ways We Lied and author Aida Zilelian

Set in Queens, New York, while a father deteriorates from terminal illness, three sisters contend with one another, their self-destructive pasts, and their indomitable mother as they face the loss of the one person holding their unstable family together.

Kohar, the oldest sister, is happily married, yet grapples with fertility issues and, in turn, her own self-worth. Lucine, the middle child, is trapped in a loveless marriage and haunted by memories of her estranged father. Azad, the beloved youngest child, is burdened by an inescapable cycle of failed relationships.

By turns heartfelt and heart-wrenching, All the Ways We Lied introduces a cast of tragically flawed but lovable characters on the brink of unraveling. With humor and compassion, this spellbinding tale explores the fraught and contradictory landscape of sisterhood, introducing four unforgettable women who have nothing in common, and are bound by blood and history.

“All the Ways We Lied is an exquisitely-told family story, a jewel box filled with unique prismatic characters, luminescent in its exploration of love and betrayal among three Armenian American sisters and their cataclysmic mother. Aida Zilelian masterfully navigates their complex, interconnected emotions with compassionate precision as the women alternately confront and turn away from the disappointments in their lives, as they reach for each other even as they struggle to find their own way.

“Ultimately a story of bravery during a time of grief, All the Ways We Lied will draw you in to vulnerable moments across continents and cultures, leading you to the most tender, comforting, and insightful definition of the word ‘home.'”—Nancy Agabian, The Fear of Large and Small Nations

“At last! A terrific novel about a modern-day Armenian family, fraught with the chaos, capriciousness, and conflicts you can find in Armenian families and beyond, bringing to mind the best parts of Lahiri’s The Namesake, Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and a twist of Franzen’s The Corrections. Zilelian’s memorable work challenges the taboos of traditional cultures with unflinching honesty. At the same time, she measures the breadth and depths of kinship, self-sacrifice and ultimately the sense of autonomy. A must-read exploration of familial love and heartache.”—Arthur Nersesian, author of The Fuck-Up

“Reading Aida Zilelian’s clear-eyed and captivating new novel – All the Ways We Lied – reminds me, once again, that specificity is universal, and that strong storytelling is anchored to our core humanity. Page after poignant page, I found echoes of my own life in the characters of Kohar, Lucine, Azad, and the entire Garabedian clan. This panoramic family tale cuts to the heart of what it means to forgive each other and, ultimately, ourselves.”—Jared Harél, author of Let Our Bodies Change the Subject, Winner of the Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry 

“Zilelian takes a fascinating micro look at an Armenian American family suffering from collective generational trauma. Her writing captures the wildly different personalities of the main characters, depicted with compassion and deep psychological acuity. With All the Ways We Lied, the Manoukians join America’s First Families of Literature as Zilelian’s wry prose draws the reader in for an intimate portrait of contemporary America.”—Chris Atamian, award-winning author of A Poet in Washington Heights

“The novel follows the women of this Armenian-American family as they reconsider how exactly to thrive on the path they’ve desperately carved out for themselves when sisterhood, motherhood, marriage, and career were not what they expected. With gorgeous prose and a page-turning plot featuring characters you won’t soon forget, this is necessary reading for all children of immigrants.”—Christine Kandic Torres, author of The Girls in Queens

“The dark and light of tangled family relations are depicted in the pages of All the Ways We Lied. The book is a warm, entertaining and heart-rending read with a cast of endearing, albeit flawed, characters. Aida Zilelian understands how people are pinned together. How they’re shaped by their parents and their parents by the generations before them and, in the case of this Armenian family, by a tragic history of loss and displacement.”—Eve Makis, author of The Spice Box Letters

“Aida Zilelian’s accomplished second novel unfolds with rare grace and tenderness. The raucous imperfections of the Armenian-American family depicted in its pages, the way they spiral out and inevitably back into each other’s lives, their unstinting patience and ultimate kindness towards each other, will remind us of our own. I wish I could spend many more pages with Kohar, Lucine, Azad, and yes, even Takouhi.”—Arif Anwar, author of The Storm

All The Ways We Lied author Aida Zilelian

Aida Zilelian is a first generation American-Armenian writer and educator. She is the author of The Legacy of Lost Things, recipient of the 2014 Tololyan Literary Award. Aida has been featured on NPR, The Huffington Post, Kirkus Reviews, and Poets & Writers. Her short story collection, These Hills Were Meant for You, was shortlisted for the 2018 Katherine Anne Porter Award. She lives in Queens, New York.

You can find and follow Aida on her website, and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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