An overly cerebral series of linked stories set in contemporary Greece that chronicles a family’s relationship over a lifetime.
The 13 stories are like a mismatched, unsorted stack of photographs. What emerges is a portrait of a profoundly dysfunctional family, particularly a doomed marriage and the effect it has on two daughters, Stella and Christina. Stella’s life is at the forefront—we learn about her childhood memories; her battles in adult life with illness and marriage and children; and her fears of death as she settles into a domestic routine with her sister. She confronts the memory of a family trip that ended in disaster, and of her father’s desperate attempts to reconnect with his children after they have been lost to him. Many of Michalopoulou’s characters wear emotional masks. In the first story, for example, a writer allows his own insecurity to render him blind to the domestic abuse, noticed by his wife, that’s seemingly plaguing a pair of new friends. In another, a mother struggling with power in her sexual and marital relations focuses on her daughter’s challenges in dance class, and her inability to tolerate pain for the sake of art. Michalopoulou writes with a heavy hand, and, despite the fact that some of her literary trickery (like the quick perspective shifts) succeeds, she makes it difficult to emotionally commit to the characters.
Some interesting techniques, but the result reads more like a writing exercise than a finished product.