Title: When the Cypress Whispers
Author: Yvette Manessis Corporon
Source: from publisher for TLC Book Tour
Review Summary: I wanted to love this book, with its great insight into Greek culture, beautiful setting, and decent writing, but I couldn’t understand the main character and disliked both the ending and the message I felt this book was promoting.
After the death of her husband and her parents, Daphne forgets about happiness and about her Greek heritage. However, she eventually gets engaged again and returns to Erikousa to visit her Yia-yia (grandmother) before getting married. While there she learns about her surprising family history and is inspired by her grandmother’s strength. She also realizes how much family and her Greek heritage mean to her.
Starting this book, I was very excited. The plot about a woman finding herself appeals to me and it became clear very early on that magical realism was going to play a role in this story as well. The place descriptions were hit or miss for me, but the author did a great job capturing the main character’s feelings as a little girl. This made sense because the author has mentioned that she drew on her own childhood experiences when writing the book. I also loved the Greek culture that was included, from a sprinkling of Greek words to great food descriptions. The myths that were included were another thing that was hit or miss for me, since sometimes it felt like too much exposition, but in general signs pointed to this being a book I was going to enjoy immensely. However, the modern day story just didn’t work for me.
It’s clear from the beginning that something is supposed to be wrong with Daphne’s relationship with her fiance. He doesn’t do anything wrong though and seems like a good guy. He’s not entirely comfortable with Greek culture and he helped Daphne enough that she questions her ability to run her restaurant on her own. That doesn’t make him a bad guy though or even the wrong guy for Daphne. The one truly terrible thing he does seems completely out of character for him. I just didn’t buy it. And the fact that Daphne is sexually attracted to another man who never apologized for being a jerk to her when they first met didn’t sit well with me either. In fact, not only is he a jerk to her, her wonderful Yia-yia completely lets him get away with it. Both Daphne’s Yia-yia and the sexy jerk might have a point that Daphne would be happier if she spent more time on family and less time at work. However, they were both very harsh to Daphne and she was very hard on herself. In the end, it made me feel like the moral of this story was that women should prioritize families over their careers and that people are bad if they don’t maintain their traditional ways.
I still might have given this book three stars, because the writing is honestly good enough that it deserves three stars, if it weren’t for the ending. Despite the message of the book, I could have been happy for our main character if she got a happy ending. Instead she gets an ambiguous ending in which sexy jerk is once again a jerk and there is no explanation of how she resolves the conflict between her career and family obligations. I know some people like ambiguous endings, but I hate them and that was enough to solidly ruin this book for me.