Compelled to fulfill her father's dying wish to find the half-sister he kept from her, Alexia arrives in her father's village of Diakofto on the edge of the Peloponnese. There she discovers a culture she knows nothing about, a country in financial crisis, and an extended family with too many secrets. The Sarinopoulos family has long been marked by tragedy, war, and a shame fanned by idle village gossip. Looming over Alexia's visit and the one trip back to Greece her father had taken twenty-five years earlier is the tragedy of Kalavryta, a Second World War massacre that changed their family forever. Told in alternating voices of Alexia and Nicolai, who each return to Greece to mourn a loss and find solace, Nicolai's Daughters uncovers the secret shame that festers in a family, refusing to heal until the truth is revealed.
About the author
Stella Leventoyannis Harvey was born in Cairo, Egypt and moved to Calgary as a child with her family. In 2001, Stella founded the Whistler Writers Group, also known as The Vicious Circle, which each year produces the Whistler Writers Festival under her direction. Stella is a fiction writer whose short stories have appeared in The Literary Leanings Anthology, The New Orphic Review, Emerge Magazine and The Dalhousie Review. Her non-fiction has appeared in Pique Newsmagazine, The Question and the Globe and Mail. She currently lives with her husband in Whistler, but visits her many relatives in Greece often, indulging her love of Greek food and culture and honing her fluency in the language. Nicolai's Daughters is her first novel. It was published in Greek translation in 2014.
Excerpt: Nicolai's Daughters (by (author) Stella Leventoyannis Harvey)
Behind the fenced grounds of the museum stood a life-sized sculpture. A scene. Alexia moved closer, knotted her fingers through the mesh. The sculpture had turned green under the sun, rain and all the other things that hit it. Still, the four stone figures seemed so real. A dead man in a suit lay on a blanket; his eyes open to the sky. A woman tugged at the blanket where his body lay. A young boy no more than six or seven pulled at her sleeve as if to persuade her to let go, leave the dead man behind. Another figure stood apart from the rest. A girl, younger, her arms helplessly by her sides.
Alexia searched the girl's vacant gaze and tightened her grip on the fence. Images flashed. Lights. A chill. Something cold in her hand. The girl must be the same age she was when... She couldn't think of this right now. Not now.
"Things happen to us," Christina said softly, and put her arm on Alexia's back. "One day everything okay. The next all is wrong."
In Stella Leventoyannis Harvey's first novel, Nicolai's Daughters, she explores the legacy of a terrible secret and how the ripples of anger and shame pass through generations to result in three families lost to each other. As Harvey deftly weaves together the three stories of Nicolai, Alexia and Theodora, she skillfully unravels the secrets of the family. With wisdom, patience, and a great affection for her characters, Harvey investigates the theme of what it means to confront a family's prejudices and hidden stories, in order to move away from the horrors of a long-ago past.