Daphne, the daughter of Greek immigrants, returns to the mesmerizing Greek island of Erikousa upon the eve of her wedding to American-born Stephen. This will be the second marriage for Daphne, who lost her first husband in a tragic accident. Though Stephen is everything a woman trying to achieve the American Dream could ever want, something is missing from Daphne’s life, something that she can only find in Erikousa.
Daphne and her young daughter, Evie, arrive at Erikousa first. Though it has been years since Daphne has seen her family, she immediately falls back into the rich tradition and heritage that has been missing from her life. Through heartfelt conversations with her loving grandmother, Yia-yia, Daphne begins to question the decisions she has made for herself and for Evie. Through a close friend of Yia-yia’s, Daphne also learns of her grandmother’s past, secrets that will reshape Daphne’s future.
Yvette Manessis Corporon’s When the Cypress Whispers is a sweet, romantic story filled with vivid imagery of a Greek island, traditions, and mythology. As someone who has never had the luxury of visiting Greece, I felt magically transported to the island, viewing it through Daphne’s eyes and experiencing the wonder of it with Evie, who is visiting for the first time in her life. As snow and rain fell on the other side of my walls, I could almost smell home-cooked Greek food and salty sea breezes in my living room.
The Daphne that we meet at the beginning of the novel is fully transformed by the last page. During this book, which is Daphne’s journey of self-discovery, we see both her past and present, and a shadow of what her future holds with Stephen. Romance is not the primary plot point in this book, though in flashbacks we are introduced to her love story with Alex, her first husband, a man she truly loved. When Stephen is brought into the story, I could see why she had aligned herself with him (stability and security seemed to be the strongest reasons) but soon determined that their relationship wouldn’t last because he neither understands nor respects her Greek traditions.
Yia-yia is a truly amazing character, and one of my favorite aspects of Corporon’s debut novel. Through her, I learned so much more about Greek mythology and traditions, and also gained a new respect for a simpler life that doesn’t revolve around the trendiest clothes, newest technology, or money. She is also incredibly strong and the secret she has kept from Daphne shows her compassion, love, and respect for humankind and people who practice different beliefs.
When the Cypress Whispers is a compelling and beautiful novel, though some of the more women’s literature aspects of it are predictable. The final pages of the novel disappointed me to a certain extent, and probably will other readers who are expecting everything to be tied up neatly by the end. However, the ending does pay tribute to certain Greek myths and has a more realistic feel to it, so it may be the perfect ending after all.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.