In Ikonomou’s timely novel, the human fallout of the Greek economic recession is writ large. In these 15 stories of poverty and institutional disfunction, Ikonomou’s heroes—the laboring, often-unemployed masses crushed by debt and hunger—seek solace from their debilitating realties in memory (“Charcoal Mustache”), dreams (“Foreign. Exotic.”), and liquor (“The Blood of the Onion”), only to come up against an implacable and corrupt system that erodes their humanity, breaking up families and repossessing property. Concerned with the bottom rungs of the social ladder, pieces such as “Mao,” about a young, cat-loving vigilante in a crime-infested neighborhood, or “Placard and Broomstick,” in which a grocery stocker mounts a feeble protest against unsafe working conditions, cover an astonishing range. Then there’s the centerpiece, a daring experiment called “The Things They Carried,” which references the famous Tim O’Brien story (and book) of the same name, except that Ikonomou’s peasants carry nothing but unpaid bills and “the weight of their weakness, the weight of time, of the sicknesses that ate at their bodies.” These stories add up to a panorama of the human spirit under siege and a searing indictment of the failures to reform the Greek infrastructure. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/25/2016 Release date: 03/15/2016 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.