Βy Donna Tsimis
The Greek island of Xenos, ficticious by name yet easily identified with by most Greek-Americans, serves as the backdrop for this rivering, high action story of romance, passion, envy and greed. The heroine, Greek – American Anna Winters, seems to have the best of all worlds. The granddaughter of a major Greek shipping magnate and heiress to his empire, she is also the daughter of a renowned British musician. This novel is her story, complex from the day of her birth and challenging every step of the way even as she poises to inherit her family’s shipping empire.
Eternity’s Song is the debut novel by author Ileanna (LeeAnn) Pappas. The story opens in 1960 revolving around thw relationship between Anna’s mother, Sara Stavropoulos and her father, Betales-like rock star, Richard Winters. Not surprisingly, the romantic stage is set for a cultural meltdown. It’s not hard for Greek American readers to experience the tension in the air when Sara brings Richard home for the first time to meet thw father, Constantine. Sparks fly, tempers flare and one can only hope that time will bring the two men together.
Anna, the only daughter of Sara and Richard, becomes the heiress to Constantine’s shipping fortune. She is thrust into a male dominated world where she must work twice as hard “as her lackluster male counterparts” to prove herself. She is undermined at every turn but manages to come out on top and eventually wins the respect of her colleagues.
The real challenges Anna faces are in her love life. As a teenager she too falls in love with an Englishman, an aspiring British actor. After he spurns her affection, she turns to a more menacing character with not so noble intentions. It’s within the confines of this situation that an interesting blackmail scenario arises. The reader is held clinging to the outcome, tantalized until the very end.
Ms. Pappas shows that she has a real talent for developing unusual and interesting characters. There ‘s Andreas Patras “who drove around the Greek islands with his Porsche and entourage”, Chandon Amaretto whose “hair was slicked back with so much grease that a toasted marshmallow couldn’t stick to it”, and Amber Stiletto, with her “plump, silicone enhanced lips ..and cranial vacuum”. There isn’t a two-dimensional character among them.
One of the more intriguing characters is the grandfather and family patriarch, Constantine Stavropoulos. He was born in poverty on Xenos.Pappas describes him as “larger than life”. He worked his way up from a deck hand to the eventual owner of a fleet of ships. In between, he fought in WW II, survived chest wounds on Omaha Beach and received a purple heart.
Neverthless, none of Constantine ‘s accomplishments compared to the love he had for his only daughter, Sara. The reader feels this intense love and frustration when his daughter presents her new husband, Richard, a foreigner. The two male characters butt heads throughout most of the book but it is fun to watch the Grecian transformation of the British character, Richard. By the end, the metamorphosis into a Hellenophile, actually embracing the virtues of Constantine’s world and home island of Xenos.
Ileanna Pappas herself is the daughter of a Greek shipping captain. Her in-depth description of intricate details of the shipping industry and her ability to tastefully poke fun at various aspects of Greek life illustrate her own love of her upbringing and culture. She describes the island of Xenos as “a dry, barren island within swimming distance to Turkey …where televisions were a rarity and donkeys were still used as beasts of burden”. However her love and appreciation of this island is seen a little farther on when she describes it “like Athena, springing from the head of Zeus, its steep brown mountains break through the crystal water, forming magnificent peaks and valleys, eventually winding their way down to white sandy shores below”.
A continuous theme throughout the story is that of fate versus coincidence. What brings us to every point we are in life? One of the villains describes life as a series of coincidences, but Anna preferred to believe in fate. She debates this issue back and forth until the final chapter when “she remembered the 17 year old boy who helped her onto that fishing boat. Who would have known how that one event would have changed her life forever. She had never believed in fate, but when she looked into his eyes that day, her destiny was laid out before her”. It’s a wonderful romantic thought which brings the pieces of the novel together. Every character has a reason for being there. Their destinies are all intertwined.
Ms. Pappas has a gift for dialogue. It’s all sharp and quick –witted. Some of her best work involves the interplay between the villains and protagonists. The overall plot is airtight. The clues are planted well in advance. When you get to the end, you will hear yourself say “ahhh, that’s right-it was there all along”.
Eternity’s Song has all the elements of a great novel –intriguing, yet believable characters, a strong plot and glamorous locations. Ms. Pappas knows and undrestands the Greek culture. She lovingly brings it to life; bounces it around with other cultures and watches it prevail through eternity. I higly recommend this book and look forward to other works from this author. When you read it buckle up, you are in for a great ride.