Review by Julie Carpenter
My Xanthi is a timely story of family love, immigration, and political violence. It’s the story of
one woman’s ability to live through unspeakable tragedy make the terrible choices that follow.
There’s a lot to love in this slim volume, a novella that punches far above its weight - a depth of
discovery bigger than the words that fill the book, as the narrator considers the nuances of
justice and the consequences of violence as they interact over generations and places.
The title character, Xanthi, is a Greek woman who comes to the US work for another Greek
immigrant family – a family that’s ostensibly living the American dream of success and
integration. The action is filtered through the narrator, a defense lawyer, Nick Milonas – a man
whose specialty is defense of criminals charged with capital crimes. Nick lives in California with
his wife and twin daughters. As the story begins one of the daughters questions the morality of
his work. Through a series of letters between Xanthi and her daughter, he begins piecing
together Xanthi’s real story – at the same time considering the how and the why of his own life
As the letters fill in the gaps of what Nick already knew, he begins to understand Xanthi’s choice
and how its ramifications affected both her family and his own.
Filtering the actions through the lens of the narrator, Nick, is a wise choice as it gives the reader
insight not only into Xanthi’s choices but also into the ripple effects those choices left behind.
Nick’s daughter’s questions cause force him to revisit what he knows and consider how Xanthi’s
legacy will carry into the future. The characters are sharply drawn through this framing lens and
there is a depth and presence to both generations of Nick’s family – each character and family
arc visible in a few short lines. The reader learns Xanthi’s secrets through both the letters that
Nick has inherited and his memories in a beautifully framed plot.
This is a short book, so we won’t belabor the point, but My Xanthi is highly, highly
recommended by Sacred Chickens, both as a personal read or as a gift. You can buy the book here or here.
Julie Carpenter is the creator of the Sacred Chickens website and author of Things Get Weird in Whistlestop, a collection of short stories . She is dedicated to telling stories and making sure that indie writers and publishers have a way to be heard. She uses narrative, her own and others’, to help interpret the world. She has a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Memphis, with an emphasis in Composition Theory. She wants to bend reality one story at a time. Julie’s work has appeared in Fiction on the Web and has appeared in The New Guard. She is currently working on a novel called The Last Train Out of Hell.