From Publishers Weekly
A girl from the suburbs of Miami marries a Greek sailor in the merchant marine and runs away with him to Ifestia, a remote Mediterranean island, in this vivid if overheated novel by Benedict (Bad Angel). The year is 1975, and 20-year-old Joyce has been living the life of a Greek peasant woman for two years, lodged with her husband Nikos's parents while Nikos is at sea. Whereas before she painted her toenails and read romances, now she milks goats and sells vegetables at the village market. Her beautiful but spoiled Nikos is gone for months at a time, returning home to complain that Joyce has still given him no son. Joyce, in turn, works hard during the day, suffering the misogyny and superstitions of her adopted home, writhing in lonely desire at night. Yet she finds the rhythms of island life fulfilling, and her in-laws' harsh love more satisfying than the suburban emptiness she knew before. She endures until she meets Alex Gidding, an Englishman with Greek family, and is reminded of the freedoms women enjoy elsewhere. From their first encounter, the novel accelerates, as Joyce struggles to resist Alex's seductions, remain loyal to her new family and, most importantly, define and accept who she is and what she wants. Benedict's prose is lyrical, though it flirts with clich?: Nikos's muscles ripple "like contented animals," and whitewashed houses resemble melted sugar. Most rewarding is Benedict's description of Ifestia, which is rendered as simultaneously familiar and strange, populated by a complex people who speak in epic cadences, are filled with conflicting emotions and are haunted by a bloody national history. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A schematic third novel from Benedict (A World Like This
, 1990; Bad Angel
, 1995) uses a young woman's learning curve in love and life as a clumsy forum for a debate on freedom versus duty.When 18-year-old Joyce Pearlman meets Nikos, a Greek sailor, in a Miami supermarket in the early 1970s, she's aimless, thinks her parents uncaring, and is ready for the change and love Nikos offers. But Nikos, as handsome as any Greek god, is a traditional man who expects his wife to obey both him and his mother. Once married, he takes Joyce home to the small island of Ifestia, where she lives with Mom and Dad while Nikos sails the seven seas. Mother-in-law Dimitra, a tough old bird who has survived countless wars (her biography conveniently leads to a reprise of recent Greek history), is determined that Joyce, though an American, will make Nikos the wife he deserves. She beats Joyce, makes her do the roughest chores, and keeps her busy working the family's small hardscrabble farm. Initially, Joyce appreciates the closeness her new family offers-she understands that Nikos' parents do
love her-and accepts the traditional limits on women's freedom. But when she meets Alex, an educated young Englishman, she begins to question these restrictions.The two meet secretly, and Joyce is again smitten-whereupon the boorish Nikos suddenly returns. Joyce, who has kept her Jewish faith a secret, now finds herself overwhelmed by the flood of other secrets she's keeping. When an English girl tells her that "if you have to hide so much from the people you love, you can never be free," and when further revelations come out on all sides, Joyce realizes she's got to make a new life for herself.If only Joyce had remembered to beware of Greeks bearing gifts. As is, she's stuck in a novel with a creaky plot, thin characters, and old arguments. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.