Zabelle begins in a suburb of Boston with the quiet death of Zabelle Chahasbanian, an elderly widow and grandmother. The story then quickly shifts back in time to Zabelle's childhood in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire where she survives the 1915 Armenian genocide and near starvation in the Syrian desert. Zabelle's journey encompasses years in an Istanbul orphanage, a fortuitous adoption by a rich Armenian family and an arranged marriage to an Armenian grocer who brings her to America.
Through each of the battles she wages in her new country--with a domineering mother-in-law, Americanized children, and the man she secretly loves--images and shadows from a long-lost world accompany her.
When Zabelle’s family assembles for her funeral in present-day Massachusetts, it becomes clear that her children hardly knew her. But as this alternately comic and heartbreaking novel unfolds, an unforgettable character emerges.