Review:: My Last Lament by James William Brown

My Last Lament is a poignant and evocative novel of one Greek woman’s story of her own and her nation’s epic struggle in the aftermath of World War II.

Aliki is one of the last of her kind, a lamenter who mourns and celebrates the passing of life. She is part of an evolving Greece, one moving steadily away from its rural traditions. To capture the fading folk art of lamenting, an American researcher asks Aliki to record her laments, but in response, Aliki sings her own story…

It begins in a village in northeast Greece, where Aliki witnesses the occupying Nazi soldiers execute her father for stealing squash. Taken in by her friend Takis’s mother, Aliki is joined by a Jewish refugee and her son, Stelios. When the village is torched and its people massacred, Aliki, Takis and Stelios are able to escape just as the war is ending.

Fleeing across the chaotic landscape of a post-war Greece, the three become a makeshift family. They are bound by friendship and grief, but torn apart by betrayal, madness and heartbreak.

Through Aliki’s powerful voice, an unforgettable one that blends light and dark with wry humor, My Last Lament delivers a fitting eulogy to a way of life and provides a vivid portrait of a timeless Greek woman, whose story of love and loss is an eternal one. (via Goodreads)

I received an eARC of My Last Lament, courtesy of the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from My Last Lament. I had never read anything about World War II in Greece, and I knew nothing at all about Greek laments, so I didn’t know if I’d have the knowledge necessary to make this work, but the unique storytelling method absolutely blew me out of the water.

My Last Lament is told in chapters based on the side of a cassette, so it’s almost stream-of-consciousness for narrator and main character Aliki. Usually, I don’t enjoy this kind of storytelling, but this time it kept me entirely captivated. The only reason I didn’t read this in one sitting was because I had to go to bed.

I don’t want to say much about the plot, because there’s a lot that won’t sucker punch you the way it should if you’re spoiled, but this was an amazing story.

My heart broke for Takis in this story. I desperately just wanted him to get some help for the “bomb” he said was inside of him. I almost wish he’d gone with the Red Cross, because then maybe he’d get some help. There was just so much going on that he didn’t understand, that even Aliki didn;t

One thing really bothered me about My Last Lament, and it was kind of the way the author made it relevant – the ethnographer. She shows up with a camera that completely doesn’t work in their environment for whatever reason, she clearly hasn’t done her research on Aliki, and then only leaves two cassettes without actually asking Aliki any questions. Like, that’s a shit interview and your research is gonna be shit.

Overall, though, this was a four star read for me. It’s a captivating read with a more distinct voice than I think I’ve ever read.

four stars and one empty one meant to signify a four star review

I would highly recommend this on audio for the true effect I think the author intended, but I recommend it in any form, really. You can pick up a copy on Amazon, Indiebound, or your favorite bookseller!

2 thoughts on “Review:: My Last Lament by James William Brown

  1. Oh I’m so glad you liked this book! I loved this one – my review should post tomorrow. I also thought Aliki’s voice was so unique and captivating. She just grabbed my attention right at the beginning, and I really loved all of the characters. Takis broke my heart. This was my first WWII read set in Greece, and I found the historical detail fascinating. This is one of my favorite reads of the year so far!

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