Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: When the Cypress Whispers

Summary: On a beautiful Greek island, myths, magic, and a colorful cast of mortals come together in a lushly atmospheric debut celebrating the powerful bond between an American woman and her Greek grandmother.

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Daphne has been brought up to believe in the American dream. When her husband dies in a car accident, leaving her with an inconsolable baby and stacks of bills, she channels everything she has into opening her own Greek restaurant. Now an acclaimed chef and restaurateur, she has also found a second chance at love with her wealthy, handsome fiancé.

Although American by birth, Daphne spent many blissful childhood summers on the magical Greek island of Erikousa, which her grandmother still calls home. At her Yia-yia's side, she discovered her passion for cooking and absorbed the vibrant rhythms of island life, infused with ancient myths and legends lovingly passed down through generations. Somehow her beloved grandmother could always read her deepest thoughts, and despite the miles between them Daphne knows Yia-yia is the one person who can look beyond Daphne's storybook life of seeming perfection to help her stay grounded. With her wedding day fast approaching, Daphne returns to Erikousa and to Yia-yia's embrace.

The past and the present beautifully entwine in this glorious, heartfelt story about a woman trapped between the siren call of old-world traditions and the demands of a modern career and relationship. When Daphne arrives on Erikousa with her daughter, Evie, in tow, nothing is the way she recalls it, and she worries that her elderly Yia-yia is losing her grip on reality. But as the two of them spend time together on the magical island once again, her grandmother opens up to share remarkable memories of her life there—including moving stories of bravery and loyalty in the face of death during World War II—and Daphne remembers why she returned. Yia-yia has more than one lesson to teach her: that security is not the same as love, that her life can be filled with meaning again, and that the most important magic to believe in is the magic of herself. -- Harper

We have a little Greek restaurant near our house that is just fantastic -- it's even BYOB. Every time I eat there, I think I should pick a book for our book club that takes place in Greece and hold the meeting there. We could sample the various appetizers, eat the amazing desserts, and drink wine while discussing the novel. It would be a wonderful time!

Well... I recently read a book called WHEN THE CYPRESS WHISPERS by Yvette Manessis Corporon that would be perfect for my book club fantasy! This novel just happens to take place in Greece and touches upon so many of the themes my group loves to discuss including family, love, and relationships. It also has elements of Greek mythology and wonderful descriptions of the Grecian countryside and foods. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

WHEN THE CYPRESS WHISPERS follows Daphne, a widow and mother of a young girl, as she heads to Greece to prepare for her marriage to a successful New York businessman. Daphne has faced a great deal of tragedy in her life -- she lost her husband and both of her parents in tragedies; however, she has managed to live out her dream of running a Greek restaurant. When her fiancé proposes marriage, she decides to return to the Greek island she visited every summer as a child and get married in the presence of her Yia-Yia.

Daphne has always had a very special relationship with her grandmother. Yia-Yia sensed Daphne's feelings even from thousands of miles away, and she provided a calming presence during the rough times in Daphne's life. As Daphne spends time on the island in the presence of her grandmother, she gradually finds herself relaxing from the stresses in her big city life and appreciating the finer things in life like food, family, and friendship.

As Daphne's wedding day quickly approaches, she realizes that she has strong ties to her past; and when her fiancé appears on the island, she begins to question everything she thought she ever wanted. With this help of her grandmother and some of the island's inhabitants, Daphne discovers a great deal about her grandmother's past but also about her own self.

Sometimes you read a novel at the perfect time in your life, and honestly, I think that was the case with WHEN THE CYPRESS WHISPERS. I have had some stress in my life recently, and I needed a book that not only took me away from all of that but actually touched my heart and made me feel. I couldn't put down this novel, and I loved how it transported me to Greece with all of its beauty and traditions.

One of the things I really liked about this novel was the relationship between Daphne and her Yia-Yia. I am a sucker for books that feature mother/daughter relationships, so it makes sense that I was drawn to this story about a grandmother and her adult granddaughter. I loved how wise and knowing Yia-Yia was, and I found her storytelling to add another dimension to this novel. Furthermore, I really appreciated learning about Yia-Yia's past and I liked how it affected Daphne and her future decisions.

The book really does have a little something for everyone. There are elements of history, mythology, friendship, romance, Greek food and customs, and life lessons. As a result, I think it would make a fantastic book club selection. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a formal reading guide; however, you will have no problems finding things to discuss. In addition, the author has a lot of information on her website which could stimulate your discussion. And just in case you don't have your own little Greek restaurant nearby, she includes some wonderful recipes that you could make for your meeting including tzatziki.

WHEN THE CYPRESS WHISPERS is a book that touched my heart. Highly recommended to fans of women's fiction and readers who enjoy novels set in Greece.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds wonderful! I'm sure I'd love the Greek setting because I'd love to go to Greece!

Beth F said...

The family theme and the Greek setting both call to me.