My Last Lament
First off: do you know what happened to Greece during WWII and after? (That's ok that the answer is like most probably no). As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I definitely didn't, even though I knew vaguely that the Truman Doctrine was announced in 1947 in response to the communist threat in Greece. Secondly: do you know what a lamenter does? Again, I didn't, but a lamenter is someone who mourns and celebrates the passing of life; "a singer of dirges following someone's death."
Okay, now that we have those two questions out of the way.... James William Brown's second novel My Last Lament is the tale of Aliki, one of the last lamenters in Greece. To frame the story (in what I thought was a bit of a cliché, but I guess there needs to be an 'inciting action'), an American researcher visits Aliki and asks her to record her laments, to capture the dying art form. Instead, Aliki takes the cassettes and records her life story. As the pull quote says on the front cover: "A real Greek tragedy, full of wit, pathos, and poetry. I admit that I wept at the last page."
I was drawn to the book for two reasons: one, I didn't know the story of Greece during WWII, and two, I didn't know what a lamenter did. I was curious, and it drew me in. (Also, it didn't hurt that the cover evoked the Grecian landscape, like from the wedding scene in Mamma Mia, my favorite movie). But I loved the book because it became the tale of this girl and her experiences in love & war & everything in between. And in a way, Aliki's story became a lens through which to understand Greece. As Kirkus Reviews wrote, "A respectful but hectic tale of national collapse." I agree- I felt sometimes there was so much going on and the narrative would have been more emotionally resonant had it just stuck to Aliki and what she was going through. Nonetheless, a worthwhile read.
Get it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2wvhV6z
Or at your local bookstore: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780399583407