EskieMama Reads Midweek Spotlight w/Giveaway: Evanthia's Gift by Effie Kammenou


Welcome to EskieMama Reads Midweek Spotlight!
Today we are spotlighting Effie Kammenou's 
Evanthia's Gift!

Enter to win a copy of Evanthia's Gift & 
a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card from Effie Kammenou


An American-Greek family saga over 50 years
Evanthia's Gift!


In the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets - ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family. 

The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, 
who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for. 

EVANTHIA’S GIFT is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families. 


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Q & A with Effie Kammenou about Evanthia's Gift!



Tell us about Evanthia's Gift.
Evanthia’s Gift is a saga that follows the lives of two Greek - American families, particularly Anastacia and her daughter, Sophia. Through their struggles and heartbreaks, as well as their triumphs and joys, these two passionate women strive to create the life they’d dreamed of.

A love story spanning decades, Evanthia’s Gift is deepened by tradition and heritage.

What initially inspired you to write Evanthia's Gift?
Before I began writing, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Suddenly, the memories of the foods I grew up with and my Greek heritage became even more important to preserve, as well as the recipes she’d entrusted in my hands.

I’d always had a story in my head and I’d often daydream storylines. With a background in the theater, creating scenes in my head, and developing characters was second nature to me. I thought that someday I might write it all down, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Then my mother passed away. I started to write as a way of working through my grief. I came up with a character that was inspired by her. It was a way for me to honor her, and the heritage she cherished. I combined the story that I’d developed over the years with the one I created after my mother’s death. The result was a beautiful love story and family saga.

Tell us little about the characters in this book.
There are quite a few characters in the book but here is a brief overview of the main characters:

Anastacia is sweet, moral and hardworking. Her plans were derailed when she found her husband in bed with another woman, and soon after discovered she was pregnant. Many women in 1956 would have felt stuck, with no choice but to stay with the husband, but Anastacia makes a life for herself and her child free from him. It does leave her wary of becoming involved romantically, even when she meets Alexandros, a man truly worthy of her.

Alexandros is the man every woman deserves to be adored by. He’s a man of honor and integrity—a man who, as a boy, witnessed personal horrors—yet grew into a man of tolerance and compassion, not cynicism.

Sophia is the talented, levelheaded daughter of Anastacia. She loves with everything she has, and has eyes only for one—Dean. Sharing a special bond since birth, the two friends become young lovers. But her love for her heritage and his disdain for it break them apart, and Sophia is shattered. In spite of her own unhappiness, she is a great support to her friends and family in times of need.

Dean is a stubborn, rebellious teenager who goes out of his way to avoid making his parents happy. They put pressure on him to uphold his heritage and Dean fights them at every turn. It costs him the love of his life, and he pulls away from his family, until he comes to some realizations about the repercussions of his actions.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
I think the most difficult are the love/sex scenes. I love to read them, but writing them is a different story. I want them to be steamy enough to draw in the reader but not so much so that I take it too far. It’s hard to toe that line.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I had several favorites, but for different reasons. There are so many emotions and layers in this book. When Alexandros relays the story of his family’s heroic actions and their tragic end, it tugs at my heart. The first time Dean and Sophia make love is a beautiful thing, but writing the scenes of Sophia’s heartbreak was one of my favorites for some reason. There are so many beautiful heartfelt moments. The ones that showcase Ana’s love for her family really pull at me because that truly was my mother.

What are your future project(s)?
Currently, I recently completed the first draft of Book II in The Gift Saga. Sophia’s story will pick up where Evanthia’s Gift left off. Whereas Book I was rooted in Anastacia and Sophia’s families, Book II will explore the relationships and lives of Sophia’s lifelong friends as they support each other through some unexpected struggles. However, this does not mean readers will not be seeing the rest of the families they have come to love and care about. They will still be an integral part of the story. The comments I’ve received from readers state that they love the family history and the Greek heritage. In their opinion, it made this book a rich and unique read. It’s been made clear to me that they are hoping for more of this in Book Two.

Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers about this book/series?
Yes. What reader may not know is that in between many of the chapters I’ve added Greek recipes. Because the traditions and foods of the characters are so important in the story, I felt it would enhance the experience for the reader.

Readers also may not be aware that I am a food blogger and I’ve been sharing recipes, stories and traditions for over five years. Every dish has a story or a memory and that’s what makes it special. Think about a favorite dish from your childhood. I will bet that along with the taste of the food, a happy memory goes along with it.

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Now an exciting excerpt from Evanthia's Gift!

Chapter 1

November 1955



The air was unusually chilled for early November in NYC, but despite the dropping temperature, sweat trickled down the back of Anastacia’s neck. Unable to wish away the nausea that was taking hold of her and too ill to sit through her last class, she’d left the NYU campus, hopping on an uptown subway to return home for the day. She’d been lightheaded and queasy the past few days, but nothing as violent as what she was currently feeling. Waiting at the crosswalk, the aroma of garlic and cheese permeating from a nearby café antagonized the volcano that was about to erupt in her belly, and she prayed she would get home without incident.
At last, Anastacia ducked into her apartment building, closing her eyes, and offering a silent thank you to the heavens for the safety and comfort of her home. Once inside her foyer, she removed her coat, hung it in the closet and glimpsed herself in the mirror hanging over the Bombay Chest. Pale skin and sunken eyes replaced her usual olive complexion and healthy glow.
I just need to sleep off whatever this is.
Her husband, Jimmy, was not expected home from work for several hours, and she hoped to be feeling better by then.
Suddenly, the sound of voices startled her. She walked through the living room, following the noise. She almost forgot the motion sickness that forced her home earlier than usual as the guttural sound of rhythmic moans grew louder, interrupted only by a woman’s shrill laughter. Anastacia forced her legs to follow the cacophony and found herself at the doorway of her bedroom. She stood there frozen. Seeing, but not believing. Tears sprang to her eyes and dripped down her cheeks, and she began to shake uncontrollably. Anastacia attempted to speak, but bile rose to her throat, rendering her incapable of uttering a word. Then, a cry that seemed to escape from her very soul, revealed her presence.
In that second, they knew she’d witnessed their betrayal. Anastacia was taken aback by the look of pure satisfaction that flashed across the naked woman’s face. A face that held not even a hint of guilt or remorse.
Her husband’s face told a different story. Shock, fear, maybe regret. For getting caught. It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, but so many thoughts bombarded her mind that it was as though she were moving in slow motion. But then, the impact of it all slammed into her, and she ran.
Jimmy jumped up, wrapping himself in a bed sheet.
“Ana! Wait!” He pushed the woman off him. “Get off me! Move! Get out of here.”
Barely making it to the bathroom, Anastacia leaned over the toilet, expelling the contents of her stomach.
“Ana,” Jimmy pleaded, coming up beside her.
“Get away from me.” She wiped her mouth with a towel, straightened up and gathered all her strength to push past him.
Jimmy blocked the doorway.
“Ana mou, I’m sorry. Please. Let me explain. Sagapo. I love-”
“Don’t touch me or ever say that to me. You’re disgusting. You both are.She ducked under his arm, but he grabbed her wrist.
His touch seared her to the bone and she pulled away. She was shamed, shaken—broken, but there was no way she was going to let him see it.
“I said don’t touch me. Never come near me again.”
“It’s not what it looks like. She… it was all her. I never meant to… Ana, please.
“It looked like it was both of you. Now let me pass,” she spat. He lifted his hands in surrender and stepped aside as she pushed her way past him through the narrow bathroom doorway.
In the hallway, the woman stood, watching, gloating. Although she and Anastacia both had dark brown hair and similar Mediterranean features, she lacked the poise and grace that Anastacia exuded.
“Get out of my home,” Ana ordered her. “I never want to see you again.” Anastacia stormed out her front door, slamming it behind her. Doubling over, she thought she might heave again, but she drew in a deep breath and continued down the hall to Soula’s apartment. She frantically knocked on the door. When she opened it, Soula took one look at her best friend and she hugged her.
“Ana mou, what is it?
Between gasps and cries, Anastacia relayed the entire humiliating scene, as well as Jimmy’s despicable attempt to explain the unforgivable.
“What do I do now?”
“We go upstairs and talk to your uncle,” Soula said. “He will know how to handle this.”  
“How can I tell him? What will my parents say? How could I be so stupid? What will Uncle Tasso think?”
“Of you? Nothing different than before. Of them? They will get what they deserve. Come. We will go together. I will tell your uncle if you cannot.

Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.Pythagoras

Chapter 2

July 1956
Anastacia beamed with joy as she stepped out of the taxicab, cradling her precious newborn child in her arms. The air was heavy with humidity, and the heat was oppressive—typical July weather in New York City. She hastened into her building to get the child away from the blaring noise of the passing traffic, as well as the lingering smell of exhaust. Her friend, Stavros, paid the cab driver and walked in behind her.
“We are home Sophia mou.” She lovingly brushed her finger across her daughter’s cheek.
Stavros unlocked the door to the apartment, helping Anastacia inside and onto the couch. He took the baby from her arms and carefully placed her in a straw bassinette, covered with layers of white lace and pink bows.
Even after spending several days in the hospital, Anastacia was still tired. The birth had not been an easy one, and adding to her stress were thoughts of juggling a career along with single motherhood.
“Thank you Stavros. I don’t know what I would do without you and Soula,” Ana told him.
“You know Soula will be storming through that door any second.” Stavros laughed, shaking his head as he thought of his wife.
“Yes, I imagine she will and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sit with me a minute until she comes.”
He sat down beside her.
“I know I keep saying it,” she continued, “but I appreciate you and Soula standing by me all these months. I couldn’t have wished for better friends. When we were in school you would tell me about your Soula back home and I never dreamed she would become my closest friend.”
“Ah, yes. I missed her and I chewed your ear off.” Stavros relaxed back into the taupe cushions of the sofa. “It was good to have you to talk to about her. Friendship goes both ways, Ana, and you have always been the kindest of friends to us.”
“You’re a good man, Stavros. I would listen to you and think, ‘Someday I want to be adored by someone the way Stavros loves Soula.’ Sometimes you want something so much you are blind to what is real and what is not,” she murmured regretfully.
Stavros slid over to the other end of the couch and took Ana’s hands in his. “Everything good will come to you—believe me.”
Ana smiled unconvincingly, and nodded. “I am grateful for so much. My beautiful baby and two wonderful friends.”
She looked up when she heard the sound of the creaking door. Soula burst in, her arms flung open with excitement to welcome Ana home. Always full of energy and enthusiasm, the tall slender blonde with the sparkling green eyes picked up the baby.
Ftou sou, ftou sou,” she pretend spat, as she made the sign of the cross over the baby, a common Greek gesture to keep evil away. Soula pinned a Byzantine icon onto the bassinette. Dangling from the pin was an evil eye.
“I see the baby?” asked Konstantinos, the two and a half year old standing beside Soula and pulling on her skirt. Tall for his age, the boy peeked over the edge of the bassinette with large expressive eyes that were rimmed with thick dark lashes.
“Come, Konstantinos, but be very careful not to lean on the bassinette,” Soula instructed her son. “Is Sophia not the most beautiful little girl?”
“I’m big. I take care of Sophia.” He rubbed her arm gently and kissed her tiny delicate hand.
“You will, just like you will take care of the new baby your mamá will have soon,” Ana said. She rose from the couch to pat Soula’s expanding belly and then bent down to wrap her arms around Kostas, kissing his plump little cheek.
“Stavros, come take a picture of the children. Sit on the couch Kostas, and Theía Ana will let you hold Sophia.”
Ana took a seat next to Konstantinos and carefully placed Sophia in his lap, mindful to fully support the infant.
“Love you Sophia mou,” Kostas told her.
Soula clasped her hands together as if in prayer. “Oh, Ana, look at them. They will grow up together and someday they will fall in love.”
“Soula! They are babies. When they grow up a long time from now, they will decide who to fall in love with.”
“No, I tell you this is why God put us together. We will be one family. I know these things,” she insisted.
“I love you, Soula. There is no one like you in the world. But these are modern times and when our children are adults they will make their own decisions.”
“As long as they marry Greeks,” Soula maintained, with a wave of her hand.
“Yes, because that worked out so well for me,” Ana said, her voice laced with sarcasm.
Soula sighed, “Oh Ana mou. I’m sorry. Do you think Jim—Ugh, I want to spit when I say his name. Do you think he knows about Sophia? I was afraid he would find out and bring you trouble. I want all that to be behind you.”
“It is behind me. Sophia has my name, not his. His name is not on the birth certificate. He is to never have a claim on her. I don’t know where he is and I don’t care. I only know that Uncle Tasso said he would never bother me again.” She shook her head as if to scold herself. “I’ve troubled so many people. I disappointed my parents and myself. But more than anything I worry how this will affect my child. How will I ever be able to trust my judgment again? How did I let this happen?”
“You fell in love. With the wrong man, yes, but you learned from it. We learn from our mistakes, Ana.”
“Yes, but will my daughter pay for my mistakes? I will never fail Sophia; she will always be my first priority. She’s all that matters to me now.”
“Come, let’s get you in bed. You didn’t have an easy time of it and you need your rest.” Soula turned to her husband. “Stavros, take Kostas home and tell Aunt Litsa to come when she is ready.”
Soula walked with Anastacia to her bedroom. She got her bedclothes out and helped Anastacia change into them. Soula wheeled the bassinette from the living room to the foot of the bed, reaching in to straighten Sophia’s covers.
“Thank you Soula. You’ve done enough for me. Go home now. You need to rest also. Aunt Litsa will stay the night and help me.”
“I will check on you in the morning.” Soula left as a weary Anastacia crawled into bed.
Ana’s mind wandered as she began to drift into slumber. Coming to the States had been her dream, but dreams didn’t always turn out the way you expected.
She was grateful, though, to have a supportive family. Her Uncle Tasso owned the apartment building and with his help she was able to stay in her apartment after throwing out and divorcing her philandering husband. Her eyelids were as heavy as ten-pound weights but thinking of Jimmy kept her awake. Just days after catching her husband in an act of infidelity that had her reeling, she’d been hit with another blow. She learned she was pregnant. She wanted no connection to him and needed to be rid of him and the humiliation that went with it. But now, because of her child, she would be connected to him forever.
Well, not if I can help it.
Her lips curved up in a content smile as she sank into the fluffy down pillow, picturing Sophia’s angelic face. To Anastacia’s relief, there seemed to be no trace of the father in her daughter’s appearance. But with infants, that could change in the weeks ahead, and she prayed it wouldn’t. Sophia’s large dark brown eyes and silky black hair were a sharp contrast to his wavy light brown sun-streaked hair and green eyes.
Aunt Litsa tiptoed in the room. “You’re still awake Anastacia mou? Why? I’m here now. Close your eyes.”
“Aunt Litsa? What will I tell Sophia about her father? How will I explain?
“That’s a long time away. Don’t think about that now.”
“But I am. What will she think of me? There were other young men at the university who were interested in me—nice ones, but I wanted to focus on my studies.” Half asleep, she continued to voice her thoughts. “I didn’t want boyfriends and dates interrupting my plans. I wanted to graduate and go back home and work with Babá. And then he came along. Why him? What was it about him?”
“You think too much. These things happen. He was very handsome and charming. That one knew how to sweet-talk the ladies. You were innocent. And you had—what do they say? Ah, chemistry. Americans, they call it chemistry.”
“Or stupidity and inexperience,” Ana berated herself. Her last words were muffled and nearly incoherent. Her head sunk into the pillow as she finally gave in to sleep.

*****

Soula knocked on Anastacia’s door before entering her apartment. “Ana,” she called out, “I have your mail.”
“I’m in the kitchen, Soula.”
Soula handed her a stack of letters, then laid a small blanket on the floor for Kostas to sit on and play with the wood blocks she brought to amuse him. The room smelled like disinfectant and pine-sol and Anastacia stopped scrubbing the stovetop when Soula sat down.
“Do you want a Coca-cola?”
“No, just a glass of water. Look! You have a letter from Greece.”
Looking at the address, Anastacia grinned. “It’s from Mamá!” She sliced open the envelope with her finger and pulled out the letter. Soula looked at her, wide eyed, waiting to hear the news.
“Mamá is coming to help me so I can go back to work. She says she will stay for six months.”
“And your babá?”
“He is coming too! But only for two weeks. He wants to see his granddaughter, but he can’t stay away from his business for too long. It will be so good to see them. And with Mamá’s help it will be easier for me to concentrate at work.” Anastacia nervously twirled her glass, wiping the dripping condensation away with her finger.
“What are you thinking about?”
Ana shook her head. “Nothing.”
“Something is on your mind. I can see it.”
“I wonder if my babá is upset with me. I never meant to disappoint him. He trusted me and I made a mess of things.”
“He loves you. He’s coming to see you, no? You worry too much.”
*****

The sweltering heat kept Anastacia in her apartment, struggling to keep her child cool. An oscillating fan blew continuously in each room day and night. She dressed Sophia in nothing other than her diaper and a tiny t-shirt and bathed her often to avoid heat rash. When Anastacia’s parents arrived, they took control—instructing, advising and smothering—but she didn’t care. She’d missed them.
On August 19, Anastacia took Sophia to the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity on 73rd Street to make her forty-day blessing into the Greek Orthodox Church.
“Give me my granddaughter. I will carry her… Koúkla mou,” Ana’s father cooed to the child. “It’s too hot for her. Walk faster. Is this hat protecting her eyes?”
“Spyro! You worry like an old woman,” Mamá scolded.
“Soon I won’t be here and I will worry from home.”
Mamá shook her head in amusement.
Walking through the church doors and into the narthex, a ripple of energy traveled through Ana’s being and she was overcome by a sense of peace, clarity and joy—if just for a second, but it was enough. It was what she needed.
“Mamá” Ana whispered. “For the first time I believe everything will be fine. I will be fine.”
“Of course you will. You are my daughter. God has made you strong.”
They walked down the crimson carpet that ran down the length of the center aisle and slid into an empty pew. Above them was the Lord, painted into a high dome, his arms outstretched to embrace all who worshiped him. Crystal chandeliers illuminated the golden icons that rested on every wall. The only sounds were the rhythmic chimes from the censor as the priest blessed the congregation and the ancient chanting coming from the choir loft.
“Did you ever get the sense that the air in here is more than empty space? Like there is more surrounding us?”
“There is,” Ana’s mother smiled in understanding.
The air in the church was heavy. Not simply from the familiar scent of the incense and its drifting cloud of smoke, but heavy with spirit, as if God and the angels had wrapped themselves in a shield of protection around Ana and their newest “servant of God.”  

*****

In mid October, Demetra Papadakis came into the world, making sure her voice was heard. Unlike Sophia, who barely cried and slept peacefully for hours, Demetra had a hearty cry for a newborn and kept Soula up at all hours, demanding constant attention.
“I go to Theía Ana?” asked Konstantinos.
Don’t you want to help me with your sister?”
“No. She’s crying. I want to play with Sophia.”
“Okay, but you be a good boy for Yiayiá and Theía.”
Soula watched Kostas skip down the hall to the next apartment. Ana’s mother opened the door and took him by the hand. “Come, agapi mou. We sing to Sophia,” Yiayiá promised.
“Thank you Yiayiá. I’ll come get him before dinner.”
“Don’t worry. He can stay. He – good boy.”

*****
“Mamá, let me help you with that,” Ana offered as she came into the kitchen one evening after work. She kicked off her shoes and tied an apron around her waist. Lacking her usual upbeat mood, she joined her mother at the kitchen counter where she was preparing dinner.
“Oh Mamá, I’m working so hard but I don’t know if it will make a difference.”
“Why you say that?” her mother asked in broken English.
“I don’t think they will ever take me seriously. When I applied for the position I was hoping to work in Public Relations, but the only thing the interviewer asked me was, ‘How many words can you type?’ That isn’t why I went to college. It’s so frustrating. I have a business degree and I got good grades. If I wanted to be a secretary I would have gone to typing school.” Anastacia added spices to the chopped meat as Yiayiá grated onions into a bowl.
“I wouldn’t know about these things. I never worked. My work was my children. That was enough for me.” She added the onions to the meat mixture, the strong odor wafting up and causing tears to well in the corners of her eyes. Ignoring the sting, Yiayiá added two eggs and dug her hands into the meat, mixing the ingredients thoroughly. She walked to the sink, washed her hands and turned around to face her daughter.

“Ana,” she said hesitaantly, worried to bring up the subject. “I spoke to Irini, right before your babá and I came to see you. She asked about her niece.”
Ana gave her mother a hard, stern look. “Mamá, we’ve been over this. I know you want to fix everything—make all the problems disappear as if there weren’t any to begin with. But that is not possible. Do you really think she cares about Sophia? She only cares about one person, herself and how to get what she wants. I understand that she’s your daughter, and that you hope that she will somehow become a better person, but she won’t. You are always making excuses for her. She’s the younger one. She has always been different from you. She doesn’t mean what she says. I won’t hear it anymore.
“She came from me too. She’s my child. What can I do but love her and hope?”
“I’m sorry, Mamá. I am. I know this is hard on you, but she is not welcome here. She needs to pay for her actions.”
“The past is past. Start fresh. It is no good to have hate in your heart,” her mother cried. “I don’t want to hate her. But I am angry and hurt. She will never change. I begged you and Babá not to let her stay in the States. You know she needs to be watched closely and Uncle Tasso had no idea what he was getting himself into when he agreed to let her stay. Babá can’t even control her himself.”
Yiayiá knew her daughter would not change her mind and she couldn’t blame her. Ana was a kind and giving person, loved by all who knew her. She never uttered a harsh word to a soul, even if they treated her unfairly, but Irini had pushed her too far. Anastacia cut her sister out of her life, plain and simple. It was self-preservation. Aside from their difference of opinion over Irini, Ana and Yiayiá treasured the time they spent together and would miss each other terribly when she returned to Greece. They continued to roll and fry the keftethes in silence, both of them too stubborn for further conversation.

*****

For Ana, not much had changed at work. Sitting at Soula’s dining table, she picked at her food while she discussed the injustice of her workplace. She usually devoured Soula’s string beans in red sauce with the tender chunks of lamb, but tonight food was the last thing on her mind.
“It’s not fair,” Ana complained. “I deserved that promotion. I work hard, I’m organized and the clients like me. And I’ve come up with good ideas. They even used some of my press releases.”
“Who got the job?” Soula asked.
“This young man. He’s only been with the company a year. I have more experience than he does. And I could have used the extra money for the sitter I’ll need to hire when Mamá leaves.”
“You’re a woman with a child. They might worry you won’t be able to put in your full effort, or that you will quit your job,” Stavros speculated.
“Stavros!” Soula scolded.
“I’m not saying I agree, but it’s how companies think.” He poured himself another glass of wine.
“But I need my job,” Ana said. “They know I’m on my own. I could never quit. They must realize I need to support myself.”
“You will get the next promotion.” Soula assured her.

*****
Ana’s mother left for home in February. She hated the frigid weather in New York and being trapped in the apartment, the extreme cold preventing her from taking her precious namesake for walks in the park. She missed her husband, her friends and her own city. It was time to go home. She would miss her daughter and granddaughter terribly, but Ana was proving to be very capable and she had Litsa and Tasso to watch over her. Before she left, Tasso offered Ana a position, assisting in managing his properties.
“Mamá, what do you think of Uncle Tasso’s offer? I’m not sure it is the right job for me.”
“Only you can decide, but you would be working in this building. You could check on Sophia whenever you wanted. This is good for Tasso too. He can trust his family with his business.”
“Yes, that’s true, but real estate never interested me and I know very little about it.” Ana turned to Aunt Litsa, who was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a Greek kafé and butter cookies blanketed in powdered sugar. “I love Uncle Tasso for everything he’s done for me and for trying to help me once again but, I want this to be right for both of us.”
“You no worry. Try and you don’t like—you find different job. And you don’t get babysitter. I watch the baby for you,” Aunt Litsa offered.
“Really? It wouldn’t be too much trouble? How can I turn that down? I would feel better knowing Sophia was with you.”

*****
Anastacia sat at her desk, absentmindedly eating a salad while daydreaming as she stared out the office window. Down below, people walked briskly through the city. Where were they running? An actress late for an audition? An investment banker meeting a wealthy client? Lovers meeting for lunch? The possibilities were endless in this eclectic and energetic city, yet hers were limited. She wrapped her hands around a mug of steaming tea and looked around the room. The gray walls matched the gray chairs, which matched the gray desks. Dull, dull, and dull. There were no paintings on the walls or plants to brighten up the room. It was practical and functional. The exciting New York life she hoped for was outside these walls, but someone else was living it.
Anastacia remembered how as a young girl, she had poured over Photoplay magazines as if they were the Bible, imagining that one day her life would be equally as exciting. When her mamá ordered her to nap during the afternoon break from school, she would sneak the magazines under her pillow and read about the fabulous lives of Vivien Leigh, Ava Gardner and Hedy Lamarr, and swoon over the pictures of Robert Taylor and Cary Grant. Pretending her footboard was a barre, Anastacia would teach herself ballet. She begged her father to take dance lessons.
“Good girls don’t do such things,” he told her firmly. That was that. There was no negotiating. Apparently, there were a lot of things “good girls” didn’t do. They didn’t ride bicycles, shave their legs, wear lipstick or talk to boys.
Convincing her father to let her come to the States was not easy, but she’d known it would be worth it. That was her chance for freedom, for excitement and her chance to become who she wanted to be. Most of her friends set their hearts on becoming a wife and mother, never leaving the place where they grew up. She wanted more. She wanted an education and a career, and yes, a family too, eventually. But instead she was here, in a tiny, bland office with little chance in finding the glamour New York promised.
Anastacia snapped back into the present when her uncle called her name. “Anastacia, come in my office. I need to discuss something with you,” Uncle Tasso beckoned.
Ana got up from her desk and sat across from her uncle.
Uncle Tasso rested his elbows on the desk and he leaned forward toward Anastacia. He rubbed his chin and stared at her, as if he were about to assess her every word and movement. “Have you enjoyed the work you do for me, Ana?”
“Yes, Is something wrong? Did I make a mistake?”
“No, no. I know this was not the job you wanted. You had other aspirations. But I think the arrangement has worked out well for both of us. You are a few steps away from Sophia and I have my brother’s responsible daughter tending to my business.”
“I have enjoyed the work more than I thought I would. I especially like showing potential renters the apartments.”
“I need to discuss something important. America had been good to me and I’ve done very well here. But for a long time I’ve dreamt of going back to build a home on the island where I grew up as a boy.”
“Are you leaving New York?” Ana asked in surprise.
“No, not permanently. I’m having a house built for all of us to enjoy, so we can go back anytime we want.”
“Thank goodness! What would I do without you and Aunt Litsa?”
“You would do fine. Which is why I am putting the business in your hands while I am gone. You’ve done a wonderful job and I will need to rely on you whenever I am away.”
“I’m honored that you trust me to run your apartments. I will make you proud, Uncle Tasso. I promise.”
“You already have. My island is precious to me, and I miss it. It is my hope that you and Sophia visit Chios and love it as much as I do. Chios is beautiful. Full of history. Homer is from Chios,” he said proudly. “And the most delicious food, the freshest fish.” He brought his fingers to his lips and gestured a kiss. “Good memories.”
Anastacia rose from her chair, hugged her uncle and went back to her own desk. She was happy for him. He deserved this. How many times had she heard her father and uncle speak of how they were forced out of their home and off the island when they were children during the Ottoman Occupation? She had her own memories of food rations and curfews during World War II but she never had to leave her home as they had in their youth.
“We had to leave. The Turks were taking Greek boys and putting them in their army. They would have had to kill me first,” Uncle Tasso told her many times.
Greece had still been under rule by the Ottoman Empire and its people were being tortured and killed. Many families fled as others stayed behind to fight. Chios was liberated from the Turks in 1912, not long after the Fotopoulos family left.
“Yes, he definitely deserves this,” Anastacia said to herself as she happily dove into a pile of paperwork.

*****

Ana and Soula appreciated the riches of the city—Central Park, the museums and the outdoor cafes, but they were yearning for a change of scenery. Even with all that New York had to offer, it could sometimes be limiting, especially for the children. Stavros agreed that a break from the city was a good idea and he made arrangements with his cousin who owned a motel on the East End of Long Island. Two days before Independence Day, they were headed east for a two-hour drive in a rented powder blue Chrysler Imperial. Stavros was driving with Soula beside him in the front passenger seat. Shaking a ring of plastic keys in front of Demetra did not keep her still. The child insisted on leaning up against the side window and hitting it or turning towards the back seat to reach for her brother’s toy. Anastacia sat in the back holding Sophia as Konstantinos generously shared his toys with her.
“Ana,” Stavros called to the back of the car, “do you remember Alex from NYU?”
“I don’t know. Was he in classes with me or with you?”
“Neither, actually. He was doing his PhD in Social Sciences and Philosophy. He used to meet our group for lunch sometimes, when he had the time. Alexandros… Giannakos. He left the city and went to Chicago. Got a teaching position at a small college.”
“Hmm, Alexandros. Dark hair? Always had books open at the lunch table?”
“That sounds like him.”
“Yes, I do remember meeting him. He didn’t socialize with our group.”
Stavros smiled. “Working to achieve a PhD will do that to you. Look how long it’s taken me to do it part time. I’ve had little time for anything else other than work and school.”
“So,” Ana questioned suspiciously, “why are you bringing up this person we haven’t seen since we left school and barely know?”
“I know him very well and we’ve kept in touch. He’s back in New York, living on Long Island, actually. He’s taken a position with a new State University in Oyster Bay, but they are building on a larger piece of property further east, and in a few years the university will expand and be located in Stony Brook. Soula and I have been talking about moving to the island eventually. Alex thinks this might be a good opportunity for me to get a position with the university. With the expansion they will be hiring a bigger staff of professors.”
This was a lot to take in. Ana couldn’t imagine not living near Soula.
What will I do without Soula? My best friend is moving out of the city. Why didn’t she tell me?
Frowning, she admonished herself for her selfish thoughts. But this wasn’t what she expected to hear when Stavros brought up his friend. She thought he was going to try to fix her up with a blind date. Again. He was always trying to suggest she meet this friend or that one. He couldn’t get it through his thick but loveable Greek skull that she had no intention of getting involved with anybody.
Alexandros, she thought. She did remember him. Nice looking. He was a little more than average height; trim but not too thin, with dark hair and an olive complexion. But the one feature of his that stood out in her mind was his eyes—those eyes. They were so stark gray that she was compelled to stare into them, but looked away for fear that his eyes could decode the secrets of her soul. Yet, he was not dangerous or threatening. Just curiously intense. Soula’s voice interrupted her deep thoughts.
“Did you hear one word we said in the last five minutes?”
Signomi, Soula. I guess I was imagining what my life will be like in the city without you.”
“You will come too! I don’t want to tell you what to do, but the country will be better for Sophia. You have time to think about it. Today, we will only think about Greenport. We’ll go to the beach, play with the children, visit some of the other towns and go shopping. The men won’t like the shopping, but they can take the children to the park or something.”
Ana looked confused.
“Men? What men? I only count one man here.”
Soula waved her hand in a circular motion.
Po,po,po, Ana, did you fall asleep and hear nothing. Stavros just told you Alex is meeting us in Greenport. He has time off in between semesters and he was happy to get away for a few days. They plan to discuss Stavros’ interview for the teaching position, and Alex will connect him with the right people. It will be nice for you to get reacquainted with him too.”
“Stavros, what did you do? I should have known when you started telling me about a man that you had another motive. What did you say to him? This better be only about your job or it will be so awkward.”
“It’s fine,” Stavros assured her. “No pressure. He has asked how you’re doing from time to time so now he can see for himself.”
“Great, just what I need. Why would he be asking about me? We hardly know each other.”
Soula raised an eyebrow. “He has eyes,” she purred, “ones that noticed you.”
That he does, Ana thought, closing her eyes and remembering more than she wanted to admit.
Kostas amused himself with toy cars, while Sophia fell asleep in her mother’s arms. Ana and Soula chatted endlessly, admiring the beautiful countryside. The open farmland, the charming country homes and the clear blue skies were a refreshing sight. When they passed through Southold, they felt homesick and nostalgic for their country. The roadside beach with the calm blue water and the sunbathers reminded them of their childhood days. They stopped the car and got out to stretch their legs. Ana closed her eyes and breathed in. She could almost taste the salt water on her lips. The gulls flying overhead, the calming sound of the gentle waves and the ringing sound of the boats in the distance made her think, for a moment, that she was back home.
“I want to come back to this beach,” Ana requested before they got into the car.
“We will bring a picnic here,” Soula said. “It’s beautiful.”
Twenty minutes later, they were greeted by Yanni and Alexandria, the owners of the Drossos Motel.



EskieMama Reads was priviledge to receive a copy of Evanthia's Gift by Effie Kammenou! Here is Mel's review on Evanthia's Gift. Thank you to Effie Kammenou for the opportunity to read & review Evanthia's Gift!

5 stars


Evanthia’s Gift was a beautifully written two generation Greek-American love story, once I started reading it, I hated to put it  down.  The book starts out with Ana & Alex’s love story, what a wonderful love that was, Alex had loved Ana from the first time he met her in college but never let his feelings known and lost his opportunity when she married another. They meet few years later through a mutual friend and this time he never let the opportunity get away this time.  You could just feel how much Alex loved & cherished Ana & her daughter Sophia, who he adopted, he would not stop until Ana trusted & loved him. I could just feel the pain the couple went through early in their marriage, it almost destroyed them but as a couple they love was more powerful than it was before the tragedy.  I loved Alex & Ana’s story but to me the best was yet to come with Sophia & Dean’s story.  


Sophia & Dean’s love story there was so many ups & downs, when you finally thought yes a big NO came. Dean had always thought of Sophia as another sister along with his own sister. They were always together, with their parents being best friends, more like family,  living next door to each other, family functions & Sophia as far as she could remember Dean was always her “Dino” & she always loved him, until one kiss that changed it all.  


There was so many times I wanted to go through the book & wring Dean’s neck, shake him until he finally realized what was right in front of him.  But eventually, many years later, he did it for me finally opened his eyes and realized what truly mattered in life.  


This book took me on an emotional roller coaster, I was laughing, yelling at the characters, and find myself crying.  I also loved learning so much Greek history, I myself never knew their was Greek Jews, and the struggles that Greeks had to through to keep their beliefs. If you are looking for a beautiful love story that will take you away on a emotional rollercoaster, that expands over 50 years, I recommend you grab a copy of Evanthia’s Gift today!  Effie Kammenou has earned a new fan in this reader, & I can not wait to get my hand’s on the next book in the The Gift Saga!

I received a copy from the author for my honest review for this spotlight!

EskieMama Reads will be giving away a copy of Evanthia's Gift on their Sunday Reviews to one lucky commentor... keep a look out for it on Sunday!




Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she'd thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actress. Instead, she's worked in the optical field for 40 years and has been the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

Her debut novel, EVANTHIA’S GIFT, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her recent interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the book.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

For updates on the release of Book Two of The Gift Saga




Evanthia's Gift Giveaway!

Comments

  1. This synopsis of this book is very interesting. It is a sample just large enough to wet one's curiosity.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the great review Melissa!

    ReplyDelete
  3. The book sounds interesting, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. sounds like good reading Jara Beaubien aka midsumrnghtdrm

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