I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the final book in The Gift Saga trilogy Chasing Petalouthes.
Chasing Petalouthes – butterflies – is the final book in this wonderful family saga following the generations of Greek families as they settle in New York. In this chapter, the younger generation – third generation – are followed through teens, adolescence and young adulthood.
Evvie, daughter of Sophia, has experienced more tragedy than a young girl should ever endure, having lost both her father and a most beloved grandmother at a young age. Her rebellious ways are her only defense to mask the ever-present pain in her heart. Closing herself off emotionally, Evvie enters college life with a determination to follow her chosen path alone. She might be a talented young dancer, like her mother, but her love for the family vineyard is strong and she discovers just how much she wants this life on a visit to France. Her determination to work and grow her family business is tested over these tender years as relationships develop and difficult choices must be made. She also begins to understand her Greek routes, the legacy of the soil and vines that is within her blood, during a visit to her great grandmother, Yiayia Sophia in Athens.
During this time Evvie remains resolute that she will not allow her emotions to sway her – she will not allow her heart to open up to love. Even when a trip to the Greek island Cephalonia, with Yiayia Sophia, seems to show her where her true happiness and future could lie, she denies herself and a certain young man who she has known since college.
Stella, Demi’s daughter, is two years Evvie’s junior and struggling at high school to “fit in”. She has a crush on a fellow student, and whilst he is happy to take her to Prom and will stand up for her honour, he makes it clear that Stella is not the girl for him whilst they are growing up. She is the sort of girl who needs a steady relationship – a happy ever after – he tells her, and he is not ready for this. Whilst Stella appreciates his honesty, at 16 this is a harsh truth to hear and she experiences betrayal from a friend during this time. Meanwhile it feels to Stella that her siblings and cousins are all talented and achieving their dreams, whilst she enters college and drifts from one course to another with no real puprose.
She is insecure, a little naive and has no idea just how attractive she is. Stella is smitten when an older, handsome, worldly young man shows interest in her and she believes that she has found love. But as his behaviour becomes more and more controlling, Stella’s family and friends become concerned that Stella has fallen into an abusive relationship. Will she accept the situation and the help on offer before something terrible happens?
“Chasing Petalouthes (Chasing Butterflies) is the coming of age story of two flawed, young women who push their way out from the confines of the cocoons they’d built around themselves and discover how to soar.”
I am going to start by saying what I always do…..please read the first two books in the series and set on a journey with these characters. You might have read my reviews for Evanthia’s Gift and Waiting for Aegina and will already know how much I have enjoyed this series. In fact I will go so far as to say that I feel emotionally invested in the characters.
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My greatest enjoyment from the trilogy has been the continuing story of the generations of women from two families and friends that become one : Anastacia, her daughter Sophia and granddaughter Evvie; Soula, her daughter Demi and grandaughter Stella; close friends, the Honeyhill girls, and their children. The roles of these strong leading women has been quite inspirational and I see the driving force of the family in the strong Greek woman, who loves to feed her family in my own great friend Evi.
This chapter of the story examines the adolescent years of the younger generation and the author shares the highs and the lows with brutal honesty. Emotions run high as a teen/early twenty something and we have all experienced the intense joy and sadness that come with the smallest of experiences. The young ladies in this tale are no different to any others and they feel intensely. As a palliative care nurse in my previous life, I was particularly interested in Evvie and how the author dealt with her grief. Something I learnt early in my nurse training (whilst losing many young men in our London taching hospital to Aids in the late 80s) is that there is no “right” way for grief, no timeline, no “one fit for all”. Yes, there is the Kubler Ross stages of grief, but everyone is so different and Ms Kammenou depicts this beautifully with Evvie.
By the time she is a teen, this young lady has experienced major loss and in order to deal with this she has built an emotional wall around herself. To the outside world her moods and strange wardrobe choices might seem like those of a “difficult, hormonal” teen, but they are so much more than this. I applaud the author for her handling and eventual breakdown of Evvie’s grief, the way in which she slowly realises that she cannot protect herself from the possibility of pain and loss – and in fact in the process may be denying herself love and joy.
Difficult topics are once again tackled in this family saga – suicide, depression and mental health, domestic abuse, death, bereavement. Perhaps this list should also include falling in love, sexuality & sexual relationships, and the complexities of family life. Both Stella and Evvie are great role models as they experience the highs and some extreme lows of growing up (no spoilers!), and both come out the other side as mature, more confident and happy young women. I am not going to say that they have grown up – I’m not sure that we ever finish growing up and I believe that Yiayia Sophia shows us this in her observations of her life.
I could write so much more here, but I think the important thing is to say that I loved it just as much as the first tow books, and I really didn’t want it to end…..surely there must be another chapter waiting in the wings about young Cia, Ms Kammenou? There are delicious recipes peppered throughout the book, including some French treats when Evvie is dancing in Paris – there is even a recipe for the delicious lemon chicken and potatoes that my own dear Evi makes. But my kids say that I could never compete!
Five stars for this engrossing, beautifully written contemporary family saga.
About the Author
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 actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.
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 interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.
Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina is Book Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.
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 entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’
As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.