First, Fine Art Friday. I think I’d title this one Comrades! Isn’t it charming?
When Circle of Quiet
posted a list of what her readers are reading
this summer, this book caught my attention. My niece Emma is spending the summer working at the American embassy in Athens. Her mom, my beloved SIL Kathie, is the mother of two world travelers. She gave me the idea of reading books set in the location of their travels. So I was on the prowl for a book about Greece. When I saw this, I immediately emailed Kathie about my plans to read it. She emailed back and wondered if Eleni Gage was related to Nicholas Gage who wrote the book Eleni
. She is his daughter. Bingo! Obviously, I couldn’t read North of Ithaka
until I’d first read Eleni
This is a true story, set in WWII and the subsequent Greek Civil War of 1946-1949
, of a mother who sacrifices her life to save her children’s lives. Her son, who lost his mother when he was nine, writes the story. I listened to this story on my morning walks and the plot was so compelling that I put in many extra miles so I could keep listening. Each night at dinner I told Curt and Collin vignettes from the book.
In the same way that The Kiterunner immerses you into Afghani culture, Eleni will immerse you into culture of the Greek mountain village of Lia. There are more similarities. Both authors write astonishing prose in a language not native to them. The story grips your heart, and seeps into your soul. Heartbreak takes up residence. I will be thinking about this book in December, I know I will. Nicholas Gage was an investigative reporter with the New York Times. After he honed his skills investigating the mafia he moved back to Greece to investigate his mother’s execution by communist guerrillas. Then he wrote this book.
His daughter’s book, North of Ithaka, is the story of Eleni Gage’s (Nick’s daughter) decision to move to Greece to rebuild Eleni Gatzoyiannis’ (Nick’s mother) home in Lia. Some reviewers have called it an ex-patriot story, comparing it to Under the Tuscan Sun. However, I cannot start this book until I’ve read Eleni‘s sequel, A Place for Us, Eleni’s Children in America.
The story is taken up when Nicholas and his sisters Olga, Kanta, and Fotini leave Greece, travel by ship to America, moving to Worcester, Massachusetts where their father, Christos, has made a home. The most important job a Greek father has is to get his daughters married to a good Greek husband. Think: My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Eventually Nick’s sister Glykeria was able to escape from the communists, join the family, and marry a good Greek boy. After I have finished this book and have the context to the tight Greek community in America, I will be ready to read Eleni Gage’s story of moving back to Greece.