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Sailor's Wife Hardcover – October 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Zoland Books; 1 edition (October 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581950241
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581950243
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,226,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Sailor1s Wife is the story of an American girl who goes to live on a remote island in the Aegean with the parents of a Greek sailor who she met at a Florida supermarket. At first the girl, Joyce, and the sailor, Nikos, can hardly speak to one another except through the language of their mutual desire, but that is enough for them to fall deeply in love and to marry. Once he has brought her home to live with his peasant parents, Joyce soon learns enough Greek to understand that Nikos is not at all the man she though he was when she married him. Continuing his career in the merchant marine, he is hardly ever home, and when he does visit, he treats her as little more than a servant. Joyce is determined to stick out the marriage, however, because she has grown so attached to Nikos1s parents, and because she has come to feel that their almost Biblical existence is vastly more meaningful than her previous life in suburban Miami. Her resolve is sorely tested when she is rescued from an assault by a couple of Greek soldiers by Alex, a handsome, young, British intellectual visiting his Greek family. One of the great strengths of Helen Benedict1s novel is that she makes us understand the difficulty of Joyce1s dilemma by bringing island culture vividly to life, and by showing how all of the major characters were shaped by the ravages of war and dictatorship. This is a sexy, sun-filled, fast-moving coming of age story, but one that never presents Joyce1s personal struggles in isolation form the hard history that, in part, determines them.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Diana Faillace Von Behren TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this novel about Joyce, a young American girl disenchanted by her useless life in Florida in the early 70s and lured to a life of hardship on a remote Greek island by a handsome sailor very entertaining. Joyce, used to flaunting her young body in a bikini, must now keep her eyes downcast while walking through the rural village as if she does not, she will attract the young soldiers who will think she is nothing better than a prostitute. In spite of the hard work she must do each day to help her elderly in-laws eke out a living, she finds happiness in feeling that her efforts amount to something. In fact, she loves the work and her relationship with her in-laws a little more than than she atually loves her virtually unknown spoiled and arrogant husband who when on leave, treats her like a beloved pet rather than his wife. As the sailor of the title, Nikos is gone for months at a time, and naturally Joyce is lonely for people her own age. When handsome Brit, Alex appears in the small village, Joyce's fragile equilibrium is finally toppled and earth-shattering events occur faster than one of the area's most devastating earthquakes.
I loved the interplay between Joyce and her in-laws; the love and regard between them was built up nicely by the author. However, I found the ending a little disorienting and a little rushed. I realize that Joyce made all her decisions in the story from an immature standpoint, and that her actions would have been interpreted in the village in only one way, but I still would have liked the story to end a little more definitively.

All in all, the novel is definitely worth reading,if only to get that bird's-eye-view of what life on a beautiful Greek island would really be like.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Denise Bentley on March 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Joyce is hypnotized by the beauty and attention of an exotic Greek sailor as she helps him in a Miami supermarket. Though the two can barely communicate verbally she falls deeply in love and at the age of 18 marries him against her parent's wishes.
Our story really begins when Nikos takes her home to his family on the Greek island of Ifestia where she realizes the ways and customs are quite different from the freedom she has taken for granted in the USA. Finding herself ruled over by a dominating Mother-in-law she does her best to fit in. The language barrier slowly becomes less of a problem as she grows to love the island but there is much more to living the ways of the past than she will ever be able to assimilate.
This was a wonderful book filled with more than a love story gone awry. It is the telling of a past political uproar and the wars and strife suffered by the people of Greece at the hands of the Nazi's, Turks and sometimes their own countryman. It is a story of personal freedom. I would give this book 4.5 stars if I had the option and I look forward to reading more titles by this author. Kelsana 3/30/01
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this book up on a suggestion from Cosmopolitan magazine. But I was drawn in immediately and found the book very interesting, not only by how Joyce jumped headfirst and willingly into her new role as a wife of a Grecian sailor, but also in learning about the culture and landscape of the country. It goes to show how you can find love in the strangest of places...and teaches a valuable lesson... when you marry, you really do marry your in-laws as well!
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More About the Author

Helen Benedict ( is the prize-winning author of eleven books, the last two of which are about the Iraq War. Her latest novel,"Sand Queen," about a female soldier and an Iraqi civilian in the war, came out in paperback in August, 2012 from Soho Press.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Robert Olen Butler said about the book, "Every war eventually yields works of art which transcend politics and history and illuminate our shared humanity. Helen Benedict's brilliant new novel has done just that with this century's American war in Iraq. Sand Queen is an important book by one our finest literary artists."

"Sand Queen" is based on Benedict's research for her most recent nonfiction book, "The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq" (Beacon Press, 2009 and 2010). She won three major awards for that book and her articles on soldiers: The 2010 Exceptional Merit in Media Award from the National Women's Political Caucus, The Ken Book Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for 2010, and the 2008 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.

Benedict's writings on women in the military have inspired an ongoing lawsuit against the Pentagon on behalf of women and men who were sexually assaulted while serving in the military, and also inspired the award-winning documentary, The Invisible War. Benedict has also testified twice to Congress on behalf of women in the military. She is a professor of journalism at Columbia University.

Further early praise for "Sand Queen":

"Helen Benedict's compelling story provides an intimate picture of what it means to be a soldier, what it's like to live on the battlefield, and what the ethical choices are that our troops have had to make in Iraq. At times funny, at times grimly painful, Sand Queen offers a new chapter in contemporary American history." -- Roxana Robinson, author of Cost

"Anyone who claims to value the lives of our soldiers should read this powerful, harrowing, and revelatory novel." -- Valerie Martin, author of The Confessions of Edward Day and Trespass

Benedict's earlier novels are The Edge of Eden, The Opposite of Love, The Sailor's Wife, Bad Angel, and A World Like This. The Los Angeles Times and New York and Chicago Public Libraries have named her novels best books of the year, and she has received fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Freedom Forum.

Her nonfiction includes Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes, Portraits in Print and Recovery: How to Survive Sexual Assault.

Helen Benedict's other articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, Glamour, The Women's Review of Books, and in many other magazines. She has been published in many countries and is included in several anthologies.

Photographer Copywright Credit Name: Emma B. O'Connor, 2010.