10/01/2014

Book Review: My Big Greek Family By Maria Constantine

Blurb: Georgina Andreou is at a crossroad in her life; professionally she’s successful, but her personal life is unfulfilled and lacking. As her huge Greek family descend upon the house to celebrate her thirtieth birthday, Georgina resigns herself to the fact that she is alive, but not living. Still at home with her parents and siblings, she’s torn between the traditional Greek values with which she has been raised and a more liberated,adventurous future. The time has finally come for Georgina to make some serious changes in her life in order to find happiness. And she isn’t the only sibling in the Andreou household who’s facing a culture clash; Katherina falls for an unlikely suitor at work, despite her family’s relentless mission to get a ring on her finger, and she is forced to face a secret she has kept buried for many years in order to take a risk on love again. Meanwhile Sophia, the youngest of the Andreou sisters, and the most rebellious, discovers a new spiritual direction in her life. The sisters’ bond is strengthened when the three of them decide to go on holiday together; secrets unravel and hidden emotions finally surface.

The trip acts as a catalyst for change in the girls’ lives and provides them with the courage they need in order to move forward. For Georgina, it helps her to find the strength to be the woman she wants to be and not the woman she is expected to be. But back in London, the sisters will have to steel themselves against opposition from their parents who find it hard to understand the cultural challenges their children face. Will their responsibility to the family prove impossible to resist?

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It was a lovely evening and not a single leaf swayed on the branches. Glancing out of the kitchen window, Georgina noticed Mr Macaroni hanging over the fence with a shoot in his hand. Georgina smiled as her mother bounced up from her seat, having seen him too.

‘Ah, must be the marrow he wanna give me to plant,’ she said with enthusiasm as she escaped to the garden to meet him.

‘Better keep an eye on him, Dad. First he wants to give her marrows – and before you know it, he’ll want to show her his cucumbers.’

Their father snorted dismissively, while Georgina and Katherina chuckled as they peered into the garden from their seats. They watched their mother return with a satisfied smile on her face.

‘Just don’t go showing him your melons, Mum."

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One huge lively Greek family. Three charming sisters. A journey to self-discovery. A journey of pure bliss.

Three sisters, Katharina, Georgina and Sophia love the time spent with each other. Spinters past thirty, thirty and close, but who says all you need is male company for some excitement. As sisters the three have an unbreakable bond, and together they would leave all family expectations to embark on the road to finding themselves.

Katharina is past thirty. Her parents have been scheming since on giving her over to "rich, Greek man". A career woman who cares less about towing the family traditions. If it was up to her, she'd elope with her job and remain spinster forever. Until Markus, the new employee makes an appearance so easy-going, good-looking and funny. Katharina can handle men... at arms-length. So if Markus ever thinks something might happen between them, he's certainly wrong. Or even if she wanted to, she's Greek and he isn't. Worse, she's been scarred for life by an incident that leaves her at war with the male generation.

Georgina turns thirty with family expectations weighing down on her neck. Her life is mundane as a school teacher who has to deal with students who give teachers very descriptive nicknames and fart with damage that can rival a hurricane's. It's clear she's not happy with all family expectations pushing her against the wall on how to live her life. In her parent's house. She's been warned by her dad to stay clear of men with 'evil', intentions. No one goes behind the family in search of a husband. But when Jake enters with blue eyes that promise more than friendship, would she be able to let go and take this one chance? Or thanks to her meddling cousin, Mario, who always has news on Jakes exploits, would she be able to trust him?

Sophia below thirty, wild child who gave up the education to train in hairdressing. Amongst all her sisters it's she who's looked down upon. Or at least that's what she thinks. Then when she begins sneaking out at late hours and coming back at early hours—a highly disapproving trait for an unmarried Greek woman, everybody begins to worry for what secrets she's keeping. And to make things worse, she's making a transformation from Bad Girl Gone Good sending everyone into confusion.

Follow these sisters journey of love, friendship, secrets, fucked-up family arranged dates and self-discovery. At the end of the day, family matters, and sisterhood flourishes.

This book is fantastic. I got reeled in by the blurb because the sound of Greek just transported my mind to My Big Fat Greek Wedding (isn't it surprising the guy who played Toula's dad, has the same last name as Maria?), a movie I devoured, huddled on the couch with the remote pressed to my chest. It was such a shame I jumped into conclusions because this book was nothing like that John Corbett and Nia Vardalos movie. But I took on the same posture, huddled on the couch with my e-reader falling onto my chest every time whatever emotions I was going through peaked. —★

I loved the storyline. Amazing. The plot is unique, the pace was breath-takingly slow but engaging. You know those kind of movies with no soundtrack, air blowing in the background dominated by chirping birds or bustling vehicles, simple sounds of day-to-day activities magnified (like the banging of a door or just footsteps and breathing patterns), that have irregular transitions between scenes yet you'd want to stick with because you have fallen for the heroine's plight? This book was one of such movies, the ones that end on such simple note of fulfilment which makes your eyes go misty. —★★

Was there anything I didn't love about this book? No. The characters were not exactly fun to read about but were amazing. From Christina, mum of three sisters who's moment of actualization would stem from her daughters being married off and constantly chasing away a neighbour's irritating cat from her garden. To Joseph, the quiet dad whose decisions were met with finality. To Dimitri the brother whose laid-back actions would piss any reader off, even more so when he's treated as a king like every other Greek boy. Markus, Jake, Harry, totally adorable men who contributed to the romance in this book. Lara, Celia, the raunchy karaoke friends. To all the members of the huge Greek extended family who were sometimes aggravating and lovely at the same time. All these characters sure put a blast in the title and made it, as I said earlier, unique—★★★

If you'd want a guide to going on a fun-packed, soul-searching vacation to Greece, this is it. The move from all the chaos of London to less plied roads and enchanting scenery thanks to Maria's description was a plus for this book. I was only on my couch, reading in the dark, but why did I feel like I was touring the majestical charm of ancient Greece, eating Mediterranean delicacies and sun-bathing with other tourists along the shores of beaches? All because of Maria, I might take six jobs this year (if I ever get the chance with school work) saving for a vacation to a Greece that would never happen for me. —★★★★

A star also to the precious moments in this book. The ones that made me wonder, the ones that made me smile, the ones that made me chuckle and the ones that made me feel so happy for any reader who might make the choice to grab this book.

My rating: Five stars.

My Big Greek Family, Maria Constantine's refreshing debut is available on Amazon.

I recommend this book to anyone who'd want to cross cultures and experience what it feels like to be Greek and single. You might be thankful for your situation. Anyone who wants something that would make them gain lessons on life and living it, love and feeling it, independence and gaining it,happiness and finding it. Simply put, anyone in search of anything heartwarming.

My work not done here. Off to post my review on Goodreads as well as Amazon.

Don't also fail to read Maria's Guest Post: My Chicklit Timeline.

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