Immigrants’ dreams, life, love, loss, family secrets, and fate converge in the debut novel from author Effie Kammenou, Evanthia’s Gift.
Meet Effie Kammenou
Born in New York City, she lived in Greece for six months when she was three, and was raised in Queens and on Long Island. She traces her Greek roots to Kefalonia, Mytilini, and Athens.
Effie dreamed of an acting career, but even after earning her degree, it never came to be. Effie ended up in the optical field, and where she has worked for the last 40 years, while channeling her creative energies into writing.
With her husband of 32 years, she has two grown daughters, one a teacher and the other a graphic designer/video editor.
Effie has been writing features for a regional magazine, including restaurant and book reviews. Once, she published a story about her dad, his memories of WWII, and the history of the family’s journey to America. She loves to cook, and for the past four years, has written a food blog, called Cheffies Kitchen.
Evanthia’s Gift, the first in The Gift Saga Series, was inspired by people Effie Kammenou has known and loved, her life experiences, and her Greek heritage.
“I remember in college the first thing a creative writing professor said to the class was, ‘Write what you know—what you have experienced, so that the result on paper will be from a real place and the depth will show. So that’s what I do,” Effie explained.
Her Greek heritage, her family’s stories, her experiences as the daughter of immigrant parents, as well as her mother’s illness are present in the story. All the characters are loosely based on people she knows, including her mother.
“I started writing Evanthia’s Gift three years ago. I’d had a story in my head for a long time, one I kept developing over the years.The novel is a work of fiction, but there are elements in it that are true. This is in no way my mother’s biography, but I honored her, and our Greek heritage that she was so proud of.”
It’s 1956 in NYC, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself betrayed, divorced, and pregnant. An immigrant from Greece, she finds her way with the help of Spyros and Soula, immigrants who also live in her building, as well as her aunt and uncle. As a single mom, against the odds, she makes a life for herself and her daughter. Years later, she is reacquainted with a college friend, who has been in love with her for years. Anastacia is guarded, but eventually falls in love with Alex, who adopts her daughter, and proves to be the love of her life.
The two couples lives are completely intertwined; their children grow up together, the men work together, and when they leave the city, they move to Long Island together, as next door neighbors. Fast forward to the 1970s, we follow their teenage children, Anastacia and Alex’s Sophia, and Spyros and Soula’s Dean and Demi. The kids struggle through the teenage years with all their wonder, a world quickly changing from that of their parents, and bridging all of that with the traditions and expectations of their Greek immigrant parents.
Dean and Sophia fall in love, but because of his father’s pressure to marry a Greek girl, he cannot publicly admit his love. Sophia wants more than a clandestine relationship, and they split. Their secret love boils under the surface, even as they both take different paths, marry others. All the while the families remain close.
Evanthia’s Gift is a love story spanning continents and generations. We are reminded that fate is stronger than rebellion, hurt, or other intentions. Love that’s meant to be transcends family secrets, loss, and life’s unpredictability.
It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. Effie Kammenou weaves a story so believable, with characters so real, you’ll relate elements to your own story. You won’t be able to put it down. You’ll feel the emotions of the characters and live the story with them. You’ll root for Dean and Sophia to find their way back to each other and you’ll chastise anyone that gets in their way. You’ll shed tears when unexpected tragedies strike the families, and when Evanthia’s gift is finally revealed, you will feel bittersweet joy. We’re also reminded that our parents have our best interests at heart, and we don’t always know what happened in their lives that made them who they are and make them do what they do. Greeks and non-Greeks alike will appreciate this story, as will children of immigrant parents who have lived a life straddling two cultures, with all of its joys and challenges. Pick up a copy.
By: Effie Kammenou
Series: The Gift Saga
Publisher: Effie Kammenou (1st edition published August 8, 2015)
We’ve reviewed all three books in ‘The Gift Saga’ series! Read them here:
For more book reviews, click here
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