A decade spanning, multigenerational family comedy from an emerging author? Count me in! Thank You to Scribner for providing me with a copy of Annie Lionatas' debut novel, Let Me Explain You, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT- Stavros Stavros Mavrakis has seen a vision and he is convinced that he will die in ten days. In his final days, he writes a cruel and scathing letter to his three adult daughters and to his ex-wife. The letter explains how each of them has been a disappointment and it gives them his perspective on how they should change to better their lives. Of course, while stubborn Stavros, never thinks that he might be part of the problem, his daughters struggle to relate to their pig headed father. The story bounces between the past and present, showing how the choices that Stavros made as he immigrated from Greece, married several women and became a successful business owner, all impacted the way he raised his daughters and his relationship with them.
LIKE- Liontas has created a world filled with strong, rounded characters, especially female characters. Although this story has some magical and dreamlike elements, the family dynamics always remain realistic. I doubt that anyone could read this story and fail to relate to at least some aspects of it. The three sisters, Stavroula, Litza and Ruby, each have very distinctive personalities and create a variety of dynamics with one another and the other characters in the story. It's these dynamics and oppositions that keep the story interesting and fresh.
My favorite part was the backstory of Stavros in Greece and meeting his first wife, Dina, the mother of his eldest daughters, Stavroula and Litza. They immigrate to America and start a family, but Dina is a drug addict, who ends up leaving Stavros with his two young daughters. Unable to cope with his children while he is struggling to start a business, he sends the girls back to relatives in Greece, until he can get settled. This portion of the story is well planted in the last half, after it is established that Stavros is a difficult man and that his daughters are suffering. We learn that he has suffered and sacrificed, which balances the scales in the story and is well timed. If the story has a central theme, it must be the idea of perspective and trying to see the perspective of others.
I liked the character of Marina, who slowly became an additional member of the Mavrakis family. She's the glue that brings a lot of the characters together and is tough, no-nonsense, even in sentimental situations. She is the one character who seems to see the entire picture and is wise in understanding the family dynamics.
DISLIKE- The pacing occasionally ran slow and I was unevenly interested in the story. There are sections with Stavros and a goat that seemed to go on forever. The first half is much slower than the second and the story took time to build steam.
RECOMMEND- Yes. Liontas has a keen wit and a solid grasp on writing family dynamics. Let Me Explain You is an entertaining and affecting first novel, but even more, it leaves me excited to experience her future efforts.