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Authors: Henriette Lazaridis Power

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The Clover House

BOOK: The Clover House
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Praise for

The Clover House
is a gripping, tender story that spans continents and generations as it delves into the secrets of a Greek American family altered by a long-ago tragedy in World War II. Told with quiet power and authenticity, it’s a reader’s treat.”

—Kate Alcott,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Dressmaker

“Layered and complex,
The Clover House
is a provocative examination of family secrets and the things we inherit, a powerful search for self that feels both unique and universal. Henriette Lazaridis Power immerses the reader in a world of tradition and resilience, creating characters who linger long beyond their final pages. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.”

—Brunonia Barry,
New York Times
and international bestselling author of
The Lace Reader
The Map of True Places

“A rare treat: an elegantly written debut about a family mystery set during wartime, the slipperiness of memory, and the challenges of forgiveness. Plus, we get to go to Greece! What more could you want from a novel? Read it, read it!”

—Jenna Blum,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Those Who Save Us

“Sharply observed and evocative,
The Clover House
is a riveting story about desire, the cost of silence, and the power of a hidden secret from the past to change everything about the present. Henriette Lazaridis Power blends the stark, at times brutal, truths of war-torn Greece with the heady rush of Carnival into a brilliantly realized story about the consequence of an illicit love, the histories we come from, and the dreams that draw us back. This debut is a gem.”

—Dawn Tripp, author of national bestseller
Game of Secrets

“Henriette Lazaridis Power takes a collection of inherited objects and weaves an intricate story of a family’s hidden past, and a Greek American daughter’s key to her own tangled identity. I was thoroughly transported to WWII Greece, and could envision the ancestral farm as vividly as my own childhood backyard.”

—Nichole Bernier, author of
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D

“Readers will feel the eloquently written quandary of Henriette Lazaridis Power’s vivid and troubled protagonist, a woman with one foot in Greece and the other in America; a woman who, like so many immigrants and first-generation Americans, struggles to be at home in two countries.”

—Randy Susan Meyers, author of
The Murderer’s Daughters

The Clover House
is a tremendously readable story of how family secrets reverberate, how war forces impossible choices, and how a very modern woman faces old longings for her mother’s love and a true home. This is a smart and lovely novel.”

—Holly Lecraw, author of
The Swimming Pool

The Clover House
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

2013 A Ballantine Book eBook Edition

Copyright © 2013 by Henriette Lazaridis Power

Random House reading group guide copyright © 2013 by Random House

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.


& design is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.

Title page art from an original photograph by Caetano Lacerda

eISBN: 978-0-345-53894-9

Cover design: Catherine Casalino
Cover images: © Stephen Mulcahey/arcangel (man with butterfly in jar), © Peter Kindersley/Doring Kindersley (red clover)


We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it



February 2000

On those rare occasions when she couldn’t control the world around her, my mother placed the blame squarely on America, the country she had reluctantly immigrated to from Greece in 1959. My father would retort that there were flaws in Greece too, but she ignored him because he was American.

They met in 1955, when my father was based in Athens with the American mission in Greece, building roads and repairing bridges on the Marshall Plan. For four years, they lived a glamorous life of parties and dances in a city that was working hard to shed the effects of the Second World War and the civil war that followed it. Once they were married and it was time to choose a country, my father won the argument, flying ahead of my mother to purchase what would be their only home. When she joined him in the hair-sprayed suburbs of parochial Boston, knowing no one and understanding little of American life, my mother’s reaction was quick and certain. To keep what she considered this unsightly world at bay, she took the brown paper from the moving boxes and covered every window of the single-story house.

She sat inside, fuming at my father and at what she knew lay on the other side of the paper. She glared at the shadows of the neighborhood children as they ran from their yards into hers and out again. They lingered before the covered windows, wondering what was hidden inside, and she watched this shadow theater, thinking of the
puppet shows she had watched as a child.

After a week, my father tore the paper down. He led her to the glass and forced her to look out at the jewel-green lawn and the fat buds on the dogwood tree.

“See,” he said, almost in tears. “It’s beautiful.”

She never agreed. In her mind, my mother never really left that papered-over room. And I spent my childhood trying to win an invitation to join her there in the Greece that she imagined and remembered.

I know this story about the papered windows because my father told it to me before he died, some ten years ago now. I don’t know what made him tell me. We didn’t see each other very often, so it must have been important to him that I know. Perhaps he knew that I’d be left with only my mother’s stories after he was gone. Perhaps he knew they wouldn’t be good for me without some sort of dilution.

For my entire childhood, until he gave up on the whole project and left, he watched me beg my mother for the stories I learned by heart—about the grand house in the city of Patras, where my mother and her sisters and brother did whatever they wanted under the benign gaze of their elegant parents; about the farm in the country, where the children climbed trees and ate fresh fruit all day. My mother was always happy to oblige my requests. She would bring out a jar of syrup-stewed oranges as she talked, spooning out the delicacy she had carried home from our summer trip to Greece into a bowl we would eat from
together. I didn’t like the stuff—the sweetness of the syrup barely covered the bitterness of the citrus—but I waited my turn with the spoon, happy to be sitting with my mother, nourished by her memories of a better time and place.

Sometimes I would press her to clarify a bit of history or to elaborate on a detail.

“What?” she would say, turning to me with a startled gaze. “What did you say?”

And I would pretend I hadn’t noticed that she’d forgotten all about me. She wasn’t really telling the stories to me; she was simply saying aloud in my presence what she was thinking about every minute of the day.

t’s a Saturday afternoon in Boston in late February when the phone rings and I recognize the city code for Patras. My mother moved back there, newly widowed, and since then we go long stretches without speaking on the phone. It’s better this way. Our most recent conversation several weeks ago ended with her complaining about the rudeness of her two sisters—women who have shown me nothing but love.

I let the call ring but perch on the couch and finally force myself to answer it. I’m surprised to hear the voice of my cousin, Aliki, on the other end.

“Calliope,” she says.

The short
sound in her Greek pronunciation knocks me into a life that seems to have been just the other side of a thin wall. Legally, I’m Calliope Notaris Brown. I am the latest in a line of Muses in my mother’s family, she being Clio, the daughter of Urania. But Callie Brown is my American camouflage. It makes it easier when I want to tell myself that the Greek part of me doesn’t exist—that I have no connection to anyone save
the people and places I choose. Now one tiny vowel sound has brought it all back. And, with Aliki’s alto, the fear that she is calling to tell me my mother is dead.

BOOK: The Clover House
10.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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