Matchmaking for Beginners – Book Review

By: Maddie Dawson

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson is a fun spin on the traditional romance novel. It includes magic, witchery and elements of serendipity. Dawson creates interesting characters that provide enjoyable additions to the story’s main plot.  One of the main characters, Aunt Blix, feels she has a special gift that helps her see and touch people’s emotions.  She believes in some forms of witchcraft, mainly focusing her craft on assisting others in finding love.  She has an unconventional view on life, love and death. 

“…it’s in the broken places where the light gets in.”

Marnie, the other main character in this story, seems completely different from Blix.  Marnie fantasizes about her future life as a wife and mother.  Despite this, when Blix meets Marnie for the first time, she feels instantly connected to her, like they are kindred spirits. These two women meet at Blix’s niece’s home when Marnie is introduced to Blix’s family.  Marnie is engaged to Blix’s grandnephew Noah.   This meeting will shape the final moments of Blix’s life and Marnie’s entire future. 

As the book continues, Marnie’s life takes an unexpected turn leaving her alone and single again.  She eventually tries to pick up the pieces of her life with a new man she thinks she loves.  I could see that this new love interest brought Marnie the comfort she so desperately needed after her heartbreak.  However, it became increasingly apparent that she wasn’t in love with this man, and she was just hoping to find herself back on track with the life she had always dreamed of.  However, in the back of Marnie’s mind she keeps remembering Blix’s inspiring words.   Blix wanted a different life for Marnie, and you can see Marnie struggling to understand which life she truly wants.   Blix, from afar, never stops thinking about Marnie.  Blix tries to influence Marnie to choose bigger and more exciting paths in life. 

“I think she’s kind of enjoying being furious with her ex for now, if you want to know the truth. It’s hard to make room for love when anger still feels so good.”

This story includes love, loss, happiness and humour.  Although Marnie wasn’t the most exciting character, you can’t help but feel connected to her.  Some of the situations she found herself in, especially with Jeremy, were a bit frustrating, but I can understand her desperate need to heal her heart.  Blix brought humour and excitement into this story, and when she passes, I felt like her presence was desperately missed.  I really enjoyed learning about the other characters in Blix’s life.  Her neighbours were all exciting people, and seeing how their lives were affected by love added a layer of intrigue to the story.  I was not fond of the negative connotations implied towards a more conventional life; everyone should choose the path that makes them the happiest.  I can’t say this is my favourite book of all time, but it was definitely a fun read.  I have already purchased Maddie Dawson’s sequel to this book, A Happy Catastrophe.

“My own heart, given away to Noah, now stirs somewhere deep down, stretches, yawns, looks at its watch and rolls over, tries to go back to sleep. But it has one eye open, I notice.”

Have you read any of Maddie Dawson’s work?


Float Plan- Book Review

By: Trish Doller

Float Plan by Trish Doller was a deeper story than I originally anticipated.  The main character, Anna, loses her fiancé, Ben, to suicide.  It was shocking to read and heartbreaking for both Anna and Ben.  Due to this topic’s seriousness, Doller includes a warning at the beginning of her book letting her readers know that suicide will be a focal point in this story. 

“…but kind is one of the easiest things to be.”

We are introduced to Anna months after her fiancé has died.  Since his passing, her life has been tough; she has really struggled to find her footing without Ben.

Before Ben died, he bought a sailboat and planned a sailing trip around the Caribbean.  Ben and Anna were going to embark on this trip together and get married on one of the islands they planned on visiting.   Even though Ben is no longer alive, Anna makes a last-minute decision to go on this sailing trip alone.  She feels this trip will help her cope with Ben’s loss while also keeping him close to her heart.  Anna plans to follow the exact route laid out by Ben, stopping at every island he dreamed of visiting.   With little knowledge in sailing, she departs off Florida’s coast, heading towards her first stop, Bimini.

Her first couple of days of sailing pose many difficulties, and she quickly realizes she cannot continue this trip alone.  She needs to find someone with more experience to take this journey with her.  Therefore she decides to put out an ad for an experienced sailor.  This is when we meet Keane, an enthusiastic sailor originally from Ireland.  He agrees to the terms laid out by Anna, and they begin their voyage, following Ben’s map.

They visit so many incredible places along the way.  I researched some of the destinations they mentioned and was immediately struck by the beauty of each spot. Doller’s vivid detail describing these islands makes the reader want to drop everything and visit these beautiful locations.

“Carla once told me the best way to make a decision is to flip a coin. She said that when the coin is in the air, you’ll usually figure our what you truly want.”

Float Plan is a heartbreaking story of grief and loss.  It was difficult reading about Anna’s inner struggle to enjoy her surroundings without Ben by her side.  She felt guilty enjoying herself, always feeling like Ben should be the there happily sailing across the Caribbean.   Anna initially embarked on this sailing adventure to get closer to Ben but, as time progressed, she found herself becoming more independent and empowered by all the challenges she was overcoming.  She met many incredible people along the way that helped her accept her grief while also teaching her to enjoy life again.  Although I found the book a bit slow and it never really captivated my attention, I still appreciate the importance of reading this story. 

“Eventually – and I say this from experience – you’ll start building a new house beside the ruins of the old. When you’re ready, you’ll know.”


With Warm Weather Comes Bright Books! My Spring Reading List

It is the first week of Spring, and I am so excited! I absolutely love this time of year. Snow is melting (even though Switzerland barely gets snow apparently), flowers and trees are blooming, and the temperature rises. The winter is behind us, and the day is getting longer! All I want to do is be outside enjoying this beautiful weather. With this excitement, I thought it was only fitting to create a list of the books I want to read to keep me in my happy spring mood. Here is the list I came up with:

The Spanish Love Deception By: Elena Armas

Armas has an absolutely beautiful bookstagram page that features all the books she has read and loved. She mostly reads romance novels and is a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. Some books she has recommended have become my absolute favourites. Therefore, when she completed her first romance novel in early 2021, I knew I had to get my hands on it. The reviews on this book have been great; I can’t wait to get started! 

Dominicana By: Angie Cruz 

This book is set in multiple seasons; it follows a woman from the Dominican who moves to New York City. However, much of the book’s beginning is set in the Dominican Republic’s countryside (which satisfies my need for a warm setting). The main character has always dreamed of a better life in America, and when the opportunity arises, it’s not exactly as she pictured it. This is a more serious book than the rest on this list, but I am really intrigued by the storyline. As well, in 2020, this book was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and has received many other numerous awards. The reviews for this book are incredible.

Float Plan By: Trish Doller

This book is set in the summertime on a sailboat, so I am already hooked! The plot centers around a woman who has just experienced deep grief and is now supposed to be going on a previously booked sailing trip; realizing she can’t make the trip alone, she hires a professional sailer to come on the trip with her. This book is exactly the kind of book that will excite me for the summer months ahead.  

Matchmaking for Beginners By: Maddie Dawson 

This book was written a few years ago and was (and is) very popular. It has been on my TBR list for quite a while, so I thought it was time to take it off the shelf and finally give it a read.  

What is on your spring reading list?


A Promised Land – Book Review

By: Barack Obama

A Promised Land is part 1 of Barack Obama’s autobiography. I chose to read his book to learn more about him and how he worked to become the president of the United States.

“The truth is, I’ve never been a big believer in destiny. I worry that it encourages resignation in the down-and-out and complacency among the powerful.”

My review:

The writing style of this book really impressed me; it was very easy to read and understand.  Obama managed to make the most complicated topics seem straightforward.  I appreciated the seriousness of everything he wrote about but, I was glad to see him include humorous anecdotes from time to time. 

I enjoyed reading his perspective on the actions he took during his presidency, especially the actions his supporters questioned.  From the American people feeling like he “bailed out the rich CEOs and banks” to the ridiculous media attention on the birther conspiracy, he focused on trying to explain how he handled those situations to the best of his ability.

“When things are bad,” Axe said, walking next to me as we left the December meeting, “no one cares that ‘things could have been worse.”

Some things I didn’t like:

In his explanation of certain events, he included far too many details.  I felt like I was reading about the 2008 economic crisis for days, and while I understand its importance, I also think it could have been summarized.  At times I found myself skimming through some topics because he had already given me a basic understanding of the situation.  I felt this way in many other chapters as well; it just seemed like it could have been shortened and still conveyed the same message.

I was really disappointed that this book was only part 1 of his autobiography; it seemed like a little less detail would have easily allowed this book to cover his entire presidency. However, I do really like where and how he chose to end this book. The event he chose brought back a time where Americans could finally unite under a significant triumph and not focus on disagreements between party lines.

“I recalled a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called “The Drum Major Instinct.” In it, he talks about how, deep down, we all want to be first, celebrated for our greatness; we all want “to lead the parade.” He goes on to point out that such selfish impulses can be reconciled by aligning that quest for greatness with more selfless aims. You can strive to be first in service, first in love.”

Final thoughts:

Overall, I liked this book; I feel like I got to know Barack and his family on a more intimate level. However, it was very long and detailed, so if you haven’t read autobiographies before, this may not be the best place to start.  This book has also made me much more interested in learning more about Michelle Obama, and I have definitely added her book Becoming to my list of books I want to read.


The Tattooist of Aschwitz – Book Review

By: Heather Morris

“Something off the tracks catches his eye, a flash of color. A flower, a single flower, waving in the breeze. Bloodred petals around a jet black middle. He looks for others but there are none.”

The same author writes the Tattooist of Auschwitz as Cilka’s Journey, Heather Morris. She wrote The Tattooist of Auschwitz first. Since I had already read Cilka’s Journey, I was vaguely familiar with the main characters of The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Cilka’s Journey didn’t fully give away the story but, I knew how it would end for the two main characters.

This book is inspired by the story of Lale Sokolov, a survivor of Auschwitz. However, this is a work of fiction. Heather Morris brings together Lale’s accounts and her creative storytelling skills for this book.

“How can a race spread out among multiple countries be considered a threat?”

My summary of the book:

Lale Eisenberg (Sokolov) is the main character, the tattooer of Auschwitz. We follow his journey from Slovakia to Auschwitz. In Slovakia, the Germans told all Jewish families to send one child over eighteen to work for the German government. Lale volunteers for his family, says his goodbyes and heads to Prague for deportation. It is still unclear what the Germans are doing with these Jewish workers, and there is still hope that if they work hard, they can return to their families. Therefore, Lale believes that he is saving his family by volunteering for the Germans; he believes he has spared his family from the atrocities that await him. He shows up for duty dressed in fine clothes to be presented respectably to the Germans. What he encounters is nothing he could have prepared for. Lale is forced onto a train with many other men, unaware of what awaits them on this journey. Many men hope and pray this train ride will be the worst part of their work assignment; when they arrive at Auschwitz, they cannot believe what they are witnessing or what they are being forced into.

After some lucky turn of events, Lale finds himself being taken out of hard labour and asked to train to become the camp tattooer. At first, he is horrified by the idea; he cannot imagine tattooing other people the way he was. However, he quickly understands that by becoming the tattooer of Auschwitz, he can get out of hard labour, his new value could also save his life, and he knows with his new status at the camp, he can help his fellow prisoners. Therefore, he accepts the position. Almost immediately, he receives extra food, which he hides for his old block mates, and is given a new single bedroom. He feels very guilty receiving these perks and promises himself to help other prisoners with his new status in the camp.

One day while Lale is keeping his head down and tattooing the new prisoners, he catches a glimpse of a woman. This woman catches his attention immediately. He is struck by her beauty, a beauty that is somehow radiating in this horrific place. After she leaves, he makes it his goal to find out who she is and which block she lives in. Lale eventually finds this woman and learns her name is Gita. This is the beginning of a beautiful romance that somehow manages to grow under horrifying conditions. This love also gives them another reason to survive the camps and gain their freedom.

“…you will honour them by staying alive, surviving this place and telling the world what happened here.”

My review of the book:

Although this story is not an exact re-telling of Lale’s life, the reader is very aware that everything happening at these camps did occur to someone. Thankfully some prisoners did survive this camp and were able to tell the story of their experiences. I don’t know what parts Morris creates and what parts are true, but the fact that Lale could survive the camp seems unimaginable. How anyone manages to go on each day under those types of circumstances shows the type of courage and strength humans can have.

“But how do you say goodbye to your mother? The person who gave you breath, who taught you how to live?

This is an incredible story of survival, love and courage. No matter what awful event occurs in the camp, Lale still chooses to go on, to fight to live, to fight for freedom. Morris does a great job at connecting her readers to the characters, making them feel emotionally attached to what happens.

Many Holocaust books, fiction and non-fiction, have been written over the years. Each one adding a different perspective to these horrible events. This was definitely a unique perspective, following the life of the man that is responsible for the lifelong tattoos that Holocaust survivors are now known for. I also really liked that Morris continued the story after the evacuation of Auschwitz. The reader could learn how these prisoners were eventually freed and understand the lack of help they were given in finding their way home. Most Holocaust books don’t go into the details of how these Jewish people, now freed, found their way home. For some, home was a long way away, and it wouldn’t have been an easy journey to complete. Overall I think this is a good book that shows a new perspective on how prisoners lived in Auschwitz.

“To save one is to save the world.”

What historical fiction books have you read recently?


The Beekeeper of Aleppo – Book Review

By: Christy Lefteri

“Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is new life and hope.”

My synopsis of the book:

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is centred around a Syrian family affected by the civil war that is spreading around them.  The first few chapters show the reader how ordinary life was in Syria before the war. Nuri and his cousin Mustafa owned and ran a bee farm where they made honey.  Nuri is the novel’s main character; he is married to a woman named Afra and has a son, Sami. There are many other important characters, like Mustafa, that play a role in shaping this story.  The reader travels with Nuri as he escapes Aleppo with his family and tries to reach England, where his cousin Mustafa lives.  Nuri travels across the Syrian border into Turkey, where he then begins his trek to the Mediterranean Sea to get to Greece. Once in Greece, his troubles only worsen as he tries to find ways to leave and continue to his final destination, England.  Christy Lefteri shows the reader the difficulties refugees face in their journey to safety and the personal struggles refugees carry as they leave their homes, friends and families.  Nuri and his family’s story of freedom are filled with heartache and sadness that will follow them for the rest of their lives. 

“Money gets you everywhere. This is what I always say. Without it, you live your entire life travelling trying to get to where you think you need to go.”

My review:

I’m finding it very difficult to write a review on this book because I don’t want to take away from the importance of the Syrian refugee crisis.  The Beekeeper of Aleppo gives a voice to the Syrian people who lost their homes to the civil war.  Unfortunately, I must admit, the book itself struggled to captivate me. 

In the beginning, it was difficult to follow along with the different periods presented in the chapters. I usually have no problem with books not written in chronological order, but this story did not flow from one period to another well. It eventually became much clearer but, the first impression of the book weren’t great.

Also, I never found myself connecting with the main characters. There needed to be a bit more character development in the beginning to draw me into their story.  I found myself hoping I would become more attached to the characters as the chapters continued but, it never really happened. I was heartbroken when each horrible event happened to them but, mainly because I knew somewhere in this world, these events happened to real people. 

Although I found this book to be pretty average, I would still recommend it because of the importance of understanding the Syrian refugee crisis.

The most important message to get from this story is that Syria was a developed, established nation that was struck by a civil war that tore the entire country apart.  Unfortunately, because of the multiple middle eastern conflicts that we are accustomed to now, we assume that all of the middle east is continuously at war, this was not the case for Syria.  Syria had been living peacefully for many years.  This is what made the civil war even more difficult for Syrians.  Lefteri does a good job at making this message clear.

About the author:

Christy Lefteri has a close connection to the story.  She spent two summers volunteering at the refugee camps in Athens, getting to meet many Syrian families.  Writing this story was also important to her because she is also the daughter of Cypriot refugees. 


Before We Were Yours- Book Review

This book is written by Lisa Wingate.

“A woman’s past need not predict her future.  She can dance to new music if she chooses.  Her own music.  To hear the tune, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean.  We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.”

Lisa Wingate, the author of Before We Were Yours, tries to expose the true story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society (TCHS) through a fictional account of a family who lived in a shanty boat that floated along the Mississippi River.  This family becomes one of the many victims of the TCHS. The TCHS portrayed themselves as a home for lost or left children, a home that focused on finding them suitable homes.  However, the TCHS actually stole children and babies from families that society looked down upon.  Although Wingate’s story is fictional, the story rings true for many families who became victims of the TCHS. 

Wingate chooses to keep the real name of the director of TCHS for her story, Georgia Tann.  Tann ran this orphanage for about 30 years in Memphis.  Some children died under her supervision, and many were tortured.  This story also highlights the involvement of many other people within the community, such as police officers, doctors and government officials.  They allowed Tann to commit these atrocities to so many families.  At the end of the book, Wingate includes the many sources she read to gain a better understanding of the TCHS for her book (I will include these sources at the bottom of this post).

While reading this story, the one thing I kept asking myself was, who was going to stick up for these families and these children?  Unfortunately, no one ever does.  No adult comes to the rescue of these children.  The reality is many children within this orphanage had to fend for themselves and try to take care of themselves until the horror was over. 

A little bit about the book…

Unlike my other posts, I will not focus too much on describing the details of this story since the description is quite clear, however, I will mention some important details.

This story is told through the perspective of the character Rill Foss.  Rill is the oldest of the five Foss children. She was born to a loving mother and father who lived in a shanty boat on the Mississippi River.  Periodically, the family anchored in different towns so that the children could attend school. The Foss parents loved and cherished their children.  The love Rill experienced from her parents gives her the continued courage to fight and protect herself and her siblings. She is determined to bring them back safely to their home on board the Arcadia.   

The other main character in this book is Avery Stafford.  She is a very different character than Rill.  She is born into a very wealthy, upper-class family in South Carolina.  Avery is a successful lawyer from New York City who has returned home to support her sick father, the Senator of South Carolina.  Avery knows she is being groomed to one day become Senator herself to walk in the footsteps of her father.  She shadows her father to many different events trying to understand more of this world she may be thrown into.  Throughout this journey, she continuously feels like something is missing and wonders if this is really the life she wants for herself.  She is also engaged to a man who she slowly realizes she may not love anymore.  It is at one of her fathers’ events that she runs into a woman named May Crandall. Avery’s life from this moment on changes as she tries to decipher what May is telling her and how Avery’s family is involved.

My review of the book…

“But the love of sisters needs no words.  It does not depend on memories, or mementos, or proof.  It runs as deep as a heartbeat. It is as ever-present as a pulse.”

I found the story to be absolutely captivating from the first chapter.  I was very interested in the Foss family and how they lived their life on board the Arcadia.  This story gives readers a brief look into the life of how some impoverished Americans lived.  I knew little about these “shanty boat” people; therefore, I was fascinated to hear about how they survived the depression.  Wingate also includes a small information section at the back of the book giving more details about Mississippi’s shanty boat people.

Additionally, she described the kidnapping of the Foss children very well.  This shows how involved law enforcement was in taking these children to the TCHS.  She also showed how the adults manipulated these children into coming with them, lying to them to gain their trust.  The way the Foss children were taken from their parents was shocking and unimaginable.

Wingate described life at TCHS with incredible detail while also sparring you the sickening reality of some aspects of the torture some children experienced within the facility.  When it came to the more horrific events at TCHS I was glad that Wingate provided only the detail necessary.

Rill Foss’s character development is also very well done.  You get a real sense of how this 12-year-old girl becomes the caregiver to her siblings.  You see her develop into a strong young woman fighting for her family. 

Wingate does a great job at intertwining the two stories of Rill and Avery, always making you wonder what their connection will be.  Is Avery related to any of Rill’s lost siblings?  Is Avery’s grandmother a friend who helped expose TCHS?  Wingate always keeps you on your toes, wondering how they are connected while never tiring the reader with each of their stories’ details.

I really enjoyed this book, but some parts are pretty disturbing, which could make it difficult for some people to get through.

About the Author:
Lisa Wingate has written many best selling books, receiving many rewards for her work.  Prior to writing she was a journalist.  

Other Wingate books: 
Before and After
The Book of Lost Friends
Carolina Chronicles 

Books she used to help write about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society:
Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children by Viviana A. Zelizer
Babies for Sale: The Tennessee Children’s Home Adoption Scandal by Linda Tollett Austin
Alone in the World: Orphans and Orphanages in America by Catherine Reef
The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption by Barbara Bisantz Raymond

Short stories at the end of the book:
The River Gypsies By Lisa Wingate 
The Shanty-Boat People (excerpt) By: Charles Buxton Going


The Age of Light – Book Review

This book is an interesting work of fiction because its main characters are based on real people. Parts of their lives have been put together by the author, Whitney Scharer’s, imagination. I didn’t know this until I had completed the book and began to do some research into the author. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of reimagining peoples lives but, many of Scharer’s readers seemed to like it.

A little bit about the book…

The book begins in 1966 in England with the main character, Lee Miller and her husband Roland, living in the countryside. At the time, Miller is writing cooking pieces for Vogue. She writes about her cooking methods and photographs each step of her cooking process. This is where it becomes evident that Lee Miller is a skilled photographer. Miller is very unhappy in her current life, and you even begin to wonder, because of her attitude and drinking, if she has always been unhappy.

As the first part of the book continues, we are introduced to many new characters, including her editor at Vogue, Audrey Withers. Withers asks Miller to write a new piece focusing on her time in Paris working with the famous photographer, Man Ray. Immediately Miller refuses but quickly realizes that she doesn’t have much choice if she wants to continue working for Vogue. Miller lists some stipulations for the piece and then accepts.

It is at this point that Miller began her story, beginning in Paris 1929. She moves to Paris to begin her photography career and eventually meets and falls in love with Man Ray. This romance is a whirlwind from the very beginning. Man Ray was much older than Lee Miller, which isn’t surprising once you understand the relationship Miller has with her father. She begins her career as Man Ray’s assistant, learning from his photography skills. However, as their romance begins and she continues to be Man Ray’s assistant, she begins to fear her own photography career is becoming secondary to Man Ray. It also becomes clear that their relationship was turning destructive. As the relationship grew, Ray became much more controlling, and his obsession with Miller becomes very concerning. For these reasons and many others, the love story in the book didn’t captivate me.

Scharer also includes short stories about Miller’s childhood. Miller experienced a very traumatic sexual assault when she was very young, by a trusted family member. This event, plus her parents’ reactions to the event, I believe, impacts the way Miller views most of her sexual encounters. I also felt like this experience influenced her relationship with Man Ray. Showing how these traumatic events hurt the victims for almost their entire lives.

Would I recommend the book?

Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy this book. I didn’t find myself connecting with the main character Lee Miller. I also felt there was no closure with this book’s ending, and I found myself wondering what the book was really about. Scharer also included information about Miller’s life during World War II and those events were never really connected to her current life or to her life in Paris. In the end, I wasn’t sure why they were even included. Also, I never felt like I understood why Miller was so obviously unhappy in her current life with her husband.

Overall I don’t think I would recommend this book to my peers but, if you disagree or have any additional comments comment below!


A Place For Us- Book Review

By Nicholas Gage

A Place For Us by Nicholas Gage is the sequel to the autobiography Eleni. Gage continues where he left off in his previous book, beginning with Eleni’s children’s arrival to America and their unification with their father, Christos. Christos has never met his son since he was born right before World War II and, he hasn’t seen his daughters in many years, so this is an emotional meeting for the family. Although this is a joyful moment, it is also filled with sadness as the family feels the immense void that exists without Eleni. Nicholas, although excited to finally meet his father, feels anger and resentment towards his father. Nicholas doesn’t understand why Christos did not bring his family to America sooner; if he had, Eleni would still be alive today. This theme of anger and resentment is shown throughout most of the book regarding Christos and Nicholas’s relationship. As well, the reality of who his father is, something he has been dreaming about for many years, is a bit disappointing. Christos is a Greek immigrant who is desperately trying to make a name for himself in America. He has taken on some business venters, which have not worked out as well as he had hoped, and he isn’t living the glamourous American life Nicholas always imagined. Nicholas begins to feel embarrassed by Christos. This is an interesting moment in the book, a moment I think many children of immigrants could at one point relate to. Young children don’t understand the struggles of immigrating to a new country and creating a good life for one’s family, they only see what they don’t have, and other kids do have, which could lead to feelings of embarrassment. A Place For Us continues through Nicholas’s childhood and into his adult life; he includes stories about what happens to his sisters and how they all make America their home.

I was very intrigued by this story, the story of a Greek family immigrating to America. My family immigrated to Canada from Greece, and I felt by reading this book, I got a glimpse into my grandparents’ immigration story. I think it gave me a better understanding of the difficulties they experienced. For this reason, I really enjoyed reading this biography. Like in his first book, Eleni, Gage writes about his story with so much detail that you often forget that it isn’t a work of fiction. If you like memoir’s or reading about immigration stories, this would be an excellent book for you!


Eleni- Book Review

By: Nicholas Gage

Eleni, written by Nicholas Gage, begins in the 1930s in the small village of Lia in northern Greece. This story is an autobiography of Nicholas Gage’s mother, Eleni. The story begins just before World War II and continues to the end of the Greek Civil War. Gage takes the reader through the birth and development of communism in Greece. The story of communism in Greece is a sad one; it is fostered by the neighbouring communist nations and, in the end, results in the displacement and separation of thousands of Greek families. Throughout World War II, the village of Lia, the home of Nicholas Gage, is portrayed as a very traditional and conservative community. Nicholas is the youngest child of Eleni’s and the only boy. During this time, the complexities of village life are best shown through his portrayal of his sister’s childhood. He goes into detail about how young women lived in the village at this time and the importance of marrying your daughters to a good family. This, unfortunately, leads to the reason Eleni decides to stay in Greece during World War II rather than go to America to reunite the family with her husband Christos, the father of her children. This decision proves to be fatal.

Nicholas Gage details the difficulties of village life for the family before the war came to the village. He talks about the Nazi occupation in Lia and its effects on the community. However, his book’s primary focus is on the Greek Civil War, when Greece’s communists tried to take over governance. When the communists have taken over Lia, Nicholas and his family’s life becomes drastically more difficult. From the forced enrollment of his younger sisters to the communist military, then to his grandfather’s abandonment, to the children’s eventual escape from Lia, you see all the struggles this family endures. After the children find out about their mother’s death, they must follow in their mother’s wishes and continue their journey to American to be reunited with their father, which is precisely what they do.

Nicholas spends the rest of his life in America, visiting Greece from time to time. In his adult life, he decides to go back to Greece and learn what happened to his mother and bring her murders to justice. It is from these accounts he writes the story of what happened to his mother, Eleni. 

The story of Eleni is genuinely remarkable. Gage does a great job at detailing village life and showing the difficulties of war life in this small village. I found the most challenging part of this book is trying to understand how humans can turn on one another so quickly and so easily. How human beings can become so hateful and vengeful to innocent people is astonishing. This is a profound story of resilience, courage and love. Eleni was killed protecting her children, praying for a better life for them outside of Lia. Luckily, her hopes and dreams for her children did, in many ways, come true. They arrived in America and started their new lives. 

Eleni was made into a movie as well.