A poignant and evocative novel of one Greek woman’s story of her own—and her nation’s—epic struggle in the aftermath of World War II.
Aliki is one of the last of her kind, a lamenter who mourns and celebrates the passing of life. She is part of an evolving Greece, one moving steadily away from its rural traditions. To capture the fading folk art of lamenting, an American researcher asks Aliki to record her laments, but in response, Aliki sings her own story...
It begins in a village in northeast Greece, where Aliki witnesses the occupying Nazi soldiers execute her father for stealing squash. Taken in by her friend Takis’s mother, Aliki is joined by a Jewish refugee and her son, Stelios. When the village is torched and its people massacred, Aliki, Takis and Stelios are able to escape just as the war is ending.
Fleeing across the chaotic landscape of a postwar Greece, the three become a makeshift family. They’re bound by friendship and grief, but torn apart by betrayal, madness and heartbreak.
Through Aliki’s powerful voice, an unforgettable one that blends light and dark with wry humor, My Last Lament delivers a fitting eulogy to a way of life and provides a vivid portrait of a timeless Greek woman, whose story of love and loss is an eternal one.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
One of the many reasons we love reading fiction is losing ourselves for a few days in someone else’s life. My Last Lament is the story of a Greek woman named Aliki, whose dramatic story dovetails with watershed moments in her country’s history. James William Brown’s writing is crisp and beautiful—and Aliki is a heroine we won’t soon forget. We’re going to recommend this novel to our friends as a heart-melting vacation read.
In 1943, Greece was under German control. The effects of the occupation were felt for years, as Aliki dutifully recounts onto cassette tapes in her father's house. Brown's (Blood Dance) second novel delves into the life of Aliki as she agrees to help a young American ethnographer learn about the Greek art of dirge-poems, though the attempt to teach quickly becomes a study of Aliki's past. Her life was set by the pace of war and dotted with its consequences: her father was executed by the Germans; she made new friends with Jews who were in need of hiding places; she watched as her village was burned; and then, still a child, she set out for new life in Athens with her friends Stelios and Takis, who would be come her own definition of family. The three travel throughout Greece; as civil war breaks out, they find work as puppeteers, anchoring themselves in the familiar stories of Karagiozis. They find good fortune in friends made along the way. As their time together ends, Aliki is left with a story that becomes her own lament. Though the language is at times too simplistic, Brown tells a beautiful story about life, war, and love.
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