Book Review: All the Ways We Lied

All the Ways We Lied
By Aida Zilelian
Published by Keylight Books
Publication date: January 9, 2024
272 pages


Set in Queens, New York, the novel introduces readers to the Manoukians—a dysfunctional Armenian family—and the fraying rope that binds them.

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 yet are bound by blood and history.


I found it impossible to tear myself away from All the Ways We Lied. Yet, there were moments when I had to set the book aside, as it spoke deeply to me. Through authentic dialogue and intricate family dynamics, particularly among mothers, daughters and sisters, this novel unveils the universal narratives of families from all backgrounds.

Each line in the book possesses a standalone beauty, characterized by a seamless flow, an authentic tone and a captivating writing style. All the Ways We Lied is a much-needed addition to contemporary Armenian literature. Decades after the Armenian Genocide, the narrative bravely explores generational trauma and its impact on individuals and families today. Zilelian fearlessly addresses topics that have long been shameful, or amot, to discuss within proud Armenian families, such as mental illness, fertility struggles, failed marriages and broken and estranged families.

I believe that the burden of carrying generational scars, stemming from grief, missed opportunities and unrealized dreams, aligns with the author’s intent behind the title—exposing “all the ways we lied to others and ourselves.”

The exploration of the Manoukian family, especially the matriarch Takouhi and her upbringing, provided me with a new understanding and perspective of the lengths a resilient individual would go to reclaim their life from desperation and loneliness. A particularly cherished scene involves the adult sisters spending a night at their childhood home, showcasing the normal and often comical shenanigans that resonate with sisters from all walks of life and likely from the beginning of time.

Zilelian offers readers a mirror through which they can see themselves in the characters, fostering a sense of connection and alleviating feelings of isolation. I believe that one of the author’s intentions in writing this extraordinary narrative is to encourage meaningful conversations with others who may find resonance with the unforgettable characters and scenarios presented.

In conclusion, I highly recommend All the Ways We Lied for its profound storytelling, relatable characters and the opportunity it provides to reflect on our own lives. It will be released on January 9, 2024 and is available for pre-order

Aida Zilelian

About the Author

Aida Zilelian is a first generation American-Armenian writer, educator and storyteller from Queens, NY. She is the author of The Legacy of Lost Things, recipient of the 2014 Tololyan Literary Award. She has been featured in the Huffington Post, NPR’s Takeaway, Poets & Writers, Kirkus Reviews, among other reading series and print outlets. Her short story collection These Hills Were Meant for You was shortlisted for the 2018 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. Her short story “The Piano” won first prize in the Lighthouse Weekly contest.

Zilelian was the curator of Boundless Tales, one of the first and longest-running reading series in Queens, NY. She is on the Board of Directors of Newtown Literary, a Queens-based literary journal that supports emerging writers. Zilelian is also an advisory board member of the International Armenian Literary Alliance (IALA), an organization that helps Armenian writers in all stages of their careers. All the Ways We Lied is her second novel.

Victoria Atamian Waterman

Victoria Atamian Waterman

Victoria Atamian Waterman is a writer born in Rhode Island. Growing up in an immigrant, bilingual, multi-generational home with survivors of the Armenian Genocide has shaped the storyteller she has become. She is a trustee of Soorp Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic Church and chair of the Armenian Heritage Monument in Whitinsville, MA. She is the author of "Who She Left Behind."
Victoria Atamian Waterman

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1 Comment

  1. Zilelian, like Saroyan, proves that every diaspora Armenian writes a book but some become talented authors.

    George Held

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