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BOOK REVIEW - by Diane McCurdy - It's Greek To Me


BOOK REVIEW - by Diane McCurdy
It's Greek To Me

By Diane McCurdy

I am not a fan of memoirs. I did not like the best selling Eat, Pray Love. Elizabeth Gilbert gets a hefty advance, men throw themselves at her and she whines across several continents. Sometimes memories become self-indulgent. So that is why I approached It’s Greek to Me, which was written by Andrea Granahan who resides in the forested hills near Bodega, with apprehension. What if I found the book boring, a dull travelogue through the Peloponnesus? How could I say anything negative about a Sonoma County artist? Would it ever be appropriate to discredit Charlie Brown, Luther Burbank or The Shadow of a Doubt, The Birds? Fortunately my worries were unfounded. I loved this book. I was sorry when I turned the last page because I found the characters so endearing they were like old friends. Breezy but informative, both light-hearted and profound the reading experience was honestly positive for me.

The narrative begins in the late 60’s when a young family boards a freighter for Greece where the paterfamilias will sculpt while the little unit soaks up culture and customs. Because they would exist on a shoestring budget it would be necessary to live like the other folks where they chose to reside. They entered into a society that no longer exists, it is a shard in a time capsule. Their first home is in a small village after which they chose island location to complete their two year sojourn. Most of the people have no electricity or running water. We would consider them living in the depths of poverty but they have a richness of spirit. The family is humbled by the graciousness and hospitality of the Greeks but occasionally is bothered by habits that seem primitively cruel. No five-star hotels here, the mother, father and the two children live like everyone else either growing food or hunting for it.

The author paints pictures with words and the pictures resonate. She describes a “time out of mind” experience in which the past, present and future are linked and a person feels at one with the universe. I have had these flashes before but could never put them into words. Another resonant image was that of a bear belonging to a tribe of gypsies tied to a pole in the rain, dancing away all by itself with no audience. I felt so much pity I was moved to tears. The way Greeks treated animals was ambiguous. One character opines that “we are like gods to animals”, I don’t know how torturing rats, stoning kittens or neglecting work animals fits into this equation. However a cow and a donkey tethered to a plow in an unlikely liaison is more humorous than abusive and a speckled hen that had been destined for dinner but was befriended by the children and turned into a semi-pet and brood hen shows a kind of quirky compassion.

The fact that everyone seems to get along and that children, adults, ex-pats, and common folk find something to love about one another is amazing and an absolute delight to read about. I was both charmed and amused.