In 2002, I spent ten months living in Lia, the tiny Greek mountaintop village where my father was born and my grandmother was murdered. While there, I oversaw the rebuilding of my grandparents’ house, which had fallen into ruin after the Greek Civil War. I also observed countless local festivals, attended one gypsy wedding and one rooster sacrifice, combated road rage, cooked Dishrag Pie and magical cakes, slipped over the border into Albania, became close friends with the retirees who were my neighbors, and learned more about local folklore than I could have imagined possible. All of those experiences ended up in my travel memoir, North of Ithaka, which was published in the UK by Bantam and Holland by deBoekerij in 2004, and in the US by St. Martin’s Press and Greece by Platypus, in 2005. Buy the US version at your usual online bookstore, or from one of my favorite independent bookshops, and, as we say in Greek, Καλό ταξίδι (have a good journey).
If you’re reading North of Ithaka with a class or book club, you’ll find discussion questions here.
Praise for North of Ithaka
“A brilliant story…an interesting saga of immigration, belonging, and community.” –The Observer (UK)
“Gage’s vivid personal account captures the seasonal rhythms and everyday dramas of Greek life beyond the familiar resort islands, revealing a place that is, in the most traditional sense, old world.” –Travel+Leisure Read More
“Eleni Gage’s prose, like the characters in her ancestral village in Greece, bursts with life. When she welcomes you into her grandmother’s house her understanding of the porous boundary between comedy and tragedy grants you pleasure when you laugh and catharsis when you weep.” –Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
“Imbued with forgiveness, with the rebuilding of lives and houses, and moving on from tragedy.” –The Times Literary Supplement.
“Pleasantly honest, often amusing…she treats tradition with respect and history with realism.” –The Wall Street Journal
“A tale of homecoming and reconciliation, North of Ithaka proves the regenerative powers of home.” –The New York Sun, Read More
“Through this moving family memoir, Gage allows us to be present at her rite of passage across that ‘psychic barrier’ from American to Greek, at the exorcism of a tragic past and at the blessing of her reborn family home.” –The Sunday Times (UK)
“Imagine being able to reclaim your ancestral home two generations after it was lost. That’s exactly what Eleni N. Gage did.”–USA Today Weekend.
“A monument to family history and an enthralling year spent in Lia.” –The Daily Telegraph (UK)
“Told with an expert’s attention to detail and all the wit and bewilderment of a young urbanite dropped into a strange, old world setting, North of Ithaka is part travel memoir, part family saga, and party story of self-discovery…One of those few books that only comes along every couple of years that qualifies as a ‘must-read’ for all Greek-Americans.” –Greek America Magazine
“A sophisticated young woman from Manhattan takes up residence in a place far removed from her previous life and learns to live — as well as embrace — the values of both worlds… An eccentric Athens’ architect hired for the job is just one of many colorful characters that fill the pages and seem at times to raise her account to the status of folk opera.” –The Washington Times Read More
“Part personal memoir, do-it-yourself manual, historical novel, family saga, and tourist guide, North of Ithaka tells of Gage’s attempt to put her cultural confusion to rest by exchanging the skyscrapers of New York for the mountaintops of her ancestral village.” –The List (Scotland)
“A fascinating portrait of a part of Greece seldom seen by tourists.” –Dorset Echo
“A tale far removed from those popular villa restoration comedies [North of Ithaka] abounds with setbacks, superstitions love, and the often suffocating bonds of heritage.” –The Australian News