In her debut novel, Robeson (English/Los Angeles Valley Coll.) describes a Greek-American woman’s search for personal and romantic fulfillment.
When she was a young girl, Thair Mylopoulos-Wright’s mother told her that humans were once conjoined to their perfect complement. But ever since Zeus separated us into two, she said, we’re all destined to search for our other half. Now, in her early 30s, Thair has a startling realization that she and her partner, while complacently happy, aren’t truly in love. This insight launches several years of soul-searching as she grapples with issues of compatibility and contentment. Her subsequent relationships challenge her assumptions and teach her about her own desires; a particular source of confusion comes from an emerging awareness that she’s not solely attracted to men. She seeks answers by transcribing her family’s history—writing short stories about her grandmother’s upbringing in Egypt and later life in Greece, and her mother’s transition from the Mediterranean to America—and these bittersweet recollections provide some of the most noteworthy material in the novel. Thair feels a strong connection to the Greek island of Kythnos, where she spent childhood summers with her grandmother; the peaceful, picturesque island serves as a contrast to her life as a busy Californian professor and offers a vivid backdrop for her reflections. Robeson makes her protagonist’s existential fretfulness about her future, and her feelings of uncertainty as she pursues a perfect romantic match, highly relatable. However, the novel spends too much time dwelling on narrator Thair’s internal struggles, and not enough time on external action to capture readers’ attention. When Thair explains that she’s “hoping my stories can entertain, maybe even help, but, mostly, my desire to write has always been to understand,” it feels as if this is the novel’s mission, as well—to untangle the main character’s thoughts concerning relationships, while giving secondary consideration to plot and pacing. Still, it’s likely that Thair’s narrative will resonate with readers who are confronting their own unpredictable futures. For others, however, her journey will seem pleasant but not revolutionary.
An often engaging but overly introspective story of life and love across three generations.