Publication Date: April 23, 2014
Seven months after Ava Martin moves to Greece with her new husband the marriage is over and she’s in a foreign country on her own. With an uncertain future can she learn to navigate Greece and is that country where she was meant to live? On a mission of self-discovery and with some help from her friends, Ava must decide where she should be and what really matters.
The author, Marissa Tejada, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
There is a trend in pop culture and fiction toward quirky women who are floundering through life. In the case of Ava Martin, she’s starting a new life in a new place when circumstances spin out of control. Ava is a normal woman with baggage from her childhood inhibiting confidence in the decisions she makes. Tejada manages to present in Ava Martin a woman who fits the trend without feeling silly or overdone. She’s a woman on the edge who has suffered a true blow and is scrambling to recover. Ava is the spirit of chick-lit.
There’s a great scene after Ava meets a younger man named Loucas. She arranges to meet him for coffee only by herself in the coffee shop alone, waiting for something she’s not sure she wants anyway. Loucas later calls her and says in broken English, “My parents, they yell to me.” (Page 93). Tejeda writes broken English fluidly, and the tone comes off as natural. Readers may find odd that 20-year-old Loucas not only lives with his parents but obeys them, though he may argue, this may sound odd to the American reader, but rings true of what we know of other cultures. Tejada’s ability to convey authenticity shines throughout and adds a layer of interest to Chasing Athens.
Carrying the theme of authenticity is the country itself. I have not been to Greece, so I cannot say if the Greece of the page is that of reality, but there is a special quality to the setting that feels as though its well known to its author.
Whether dipping a toe in the dating world, navigating the local constabulary or being chased by a man on a horse while naked, Ava reads as a woman in desperate need of finding her purpose. Thankfully she has faithful Greek friends to sit her down and remind her not to over-think things. Elena and Nikos lend support and act as something of a Greek chorus for the audience.
While there are some truly fun comedic moments in Chasing Athens, there’s a realistic weight of subject. Tejeda tells and shows us that none of this is easy for Ava. Decisions in life are like dominoes, each move you make is either an impact or cause for the next. The situations in Ava’s life are the joke instead of Ava being that joke and that’s quite a refreshing quality. This is a woman that we know can figure things out but will she?Chasing Athens is a great story. If I had to choose something that bothered me, it would be the catty female nemesis. That character truly wasn’t in the novel enough to matter, but it’s a hot button for this reader. As a woman, I think we need to support each other, and as a realist, I know that’s not always the case. When the catty woman is over the top in fiction, I am really bothered, but as a reader I know that character is a mainstay of women’s fiction. Can we as a culture not move on from her? That said, Tejada’s catty female as not over the top.
If you like really well written women’s fiction pick Chasing Athens up today.