North of Ithaka
By time she turned twenty-seven, Eleni Gage was tired of the not-so-subtle hints of her loud, superstitious aunts about marriage. But she wasn't tired of the stories they told of their childhood home, even though they broke off darkly with the invasion of the German army in WWII.
Eleni knows their home was turned into the headquarters of the army and used as a prison, torture chamber, and burial ground for those executed, including her grandmother. She knows the house has since fallen into ruin. And she knows the past is calling her.
Funded by her father and fueled by a desire to understand their family's tragic past and somehow redeem the future, she leaves a career as a New York journalist and moves to Lia, a a tiny village in northern Greece. There she navigates local custom (such as sacrificing a rooster on the foundations of a new house), stubborn tempers, and fights against squirrels to dig up and restore her family's past, revere the memory of her grandmother, and rebuild the family home. Along the way she learns to cook, how to balance superstition and orthodox religion, and what it means to be a Northern Greek.
Eleni's writing is frank and clear, recounting her mistakes, frustrations, revelations, and good times. Her descriptions of Greek village life are thoughtful and entertaining, and the neighbors never fail to be kind, loud, and overly concerned with everyone's business. As a bonus, Eleni includes recipes for many of the ritual foods mentioned throughout the book, such as rooster stew. It's not a page turner, but North of Ithaka is just the thing if you want a light, satisfying read.
Serendipity and silkworms:
9 months ago