Most helpful positive review
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 20 February 2005
It comes as no surprise that Eleni Gage turns out to be a gifted writer. It runs in the blood, I guess. Her father is the well known Nicholas Gage who wrote, among other fine books, one about his mother Eleni who was murdered by Communist guerrillas in the Greek civil war just after WW II. When I read it a few years ago it left me in a state of shock for about a week.
The present more upbeat work recounts the author's yearlong stay in the village of Lia, close to the Albanian border, where she succeeds in rebuilding the very house in which her grandmother and other villagers were kept prisoners before being brutally murdered more than a half-century earlier.
The author wants to strengthen her sense of rootedness in Epirus while holding on to the values and habits of thought she has acquired as an American woman. She wants to fit into life in her ancestral village without being seduced by a mindset she has been conditioned to reject - or at least question. She encounters lots of customs and practices that can be classed as superstition or magic (or even idolatry) that the locals think are part of Christianity but which she finds only marginally acceptable. Most of the people she runs into treat her with great kindness and become her friends even though none of them are nearly as well educated as she. They are mostly old or elderly.
The author experiences some emotional turmoil as the reconstruction process runs into some snags and delays, and as she has to deal with bureaucrats and others whose venality and incompetence would make a less motivated person wonder if it is all worth it. An almost constant presence in the book is the author's earthy Aunt Kanta, the Greek-born American lady who speaks imperfect English, believes everything in America is perfect, and has opinions on every conceivable topic, including why her niece is single and what she should do to get married. Even though Kanta is very in-your-face and sometimes a pain in the neck, she is still lovable. And so are the villagers. And so are the undocumented Albanians who cross the border looking for work.
What I liked most about this book, apart from its being very well written and sometimes lyrical, is its spirit of optimism and hope for the future - of humanity.