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The Clover House    by Henriette Lazaridis Power order for
Clover House
by Henriette Lazaridis Power
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2013 (2013)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Clover House by Henriette Lazaridis Power reminded me of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, though the difficult mothers in question come from totally different cultures. In this novel, Calliope Notaris Brown returns to Patras, Greece to dig into family history in the hope of coming to a better understanding of her cranky mother Clio, and of herself.

What prompts this exploratory visit is a call from Cal's cousin Alili to tell her that their Uncle Nestor has died and has left her the contents of his house - she needs to go there to sign an Acceptance of Inheritance and to deal with it. Aliki also warns Calli that her mother's acting strangely, as if she doesn't want her daughter to go through Nestor's belongings.

Calliope's fiancÚ Jonah wants to get married soon and can't understand her reluctance to take him to meet her family. Her unhappy childhood, with parents who 'lashed out again and again at the walls that confined them in their marriage', has left her wary and afraid of commitment. She goes to Greece alone after quarrelling with Jonah.

In Greece, Calliope acts out and makes some poor personal choices, in between spending time with Aliki's family and going through Nestor's boxes. Interspersed with modern events are flashbacks into her mother Clio's privileged childhood (her father was a successful raisin exporter) before the start of the war, including time spent at a family farm where she played outdoors in a clover house.

Gradually, both readers and Calliope learn what happened to her mother and to Nestor during the war, and what guilty memories had burdened Clio ever since. This allows Calli to go back and attempt to live a better life herself. The Clover House is an engaging read.

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