About the book
When a well-meaning Canadian aid worker in Athens decides to take a young refugee boy into her care, she is unexpectedly jailed and accused of kidnapping. The boy is just one of thousands who desperately cross the Mediterranean in rickety boats in the hopes of using Greece as the conduit to a better life elsewhere. But even here, on the brink of freedom, these refugees who have sacrificed so much could lose so much more.
About the author
Stella Leventoyannis Harvey was born in Cairo, Egypt and moved to Calgary as a child with her family. In 2001, Stella founded the Whistler Writers Group, also known as the Vicious Circle, which each year produces the Whistler Writers Festival under her direction. Stella is a fiction writer whose short stories have appeared in The Literary Leanings Anthology, The New Orphic Review, Emerge Magazine and The Dalhousie Review. Her non-fiction has appeared in Pique Newsmagazine, The Question and the Globe and Mail. She currently lives with her husband in Whistler, but visits her many relatives in Greece often, indulging her love of Greek food and culture and honing her fluency in the language. Her first novel, Nicolai's Daughters was published in 2012 with the Greek translation published by Psichogios Publications of Athens. Her second novel, The Brink of Freedom was published in 2015.
Christos and his family continued to survive, despite the ongoing recession, thanks to God, his mother-in-law and Tia’s cousin with government connections. When he’d worked at OTE, Christos used to say corruption and nepotism were Greece’s biggest problems. If they could rid the country of the rot, they’d be better off. But that was before he found himself out of work.
His wife’s cousin had told him the only places hiring these days were police departments and security companies. He had a few connections in the police department. “These days with the migrants and the Golden Dawn racists and the protests in the streets it’s a booming industry. The only one. Go in there and show them you’re tough enough for the job,” Petros said. “And keep your liberal ideas to yourself. These people don’t care about such things.”
As much as he hated the new order–daily riots in the streets, violence by and against foreigners−it had provided him with work.
Christos stuck the key for the safe into his pocket.
“You’re home,” Tia said as she walked into the kitchen. “How was the night? Has Kefalas’s head shrunk any?” She smiled.
“It is always the same.” He shrugged now. “People don’t change.”
She swung quickly towards the stove, turning down the element beneath the bubbling broth. “Too much on my mind and the day hasn’t even begun.”
“How was he last night?” Christos asked. He left a trace of a kiss on Tia’s cheek. Standing at the stove, a ladle in her hand, she leaned into him.
“He ate a little. More than the first night,” she said. “Yiayia tells me he doesn’t say much during the day, sits by himself, doesn’t bother with any of the toys, even when Alexandra tries to interest him in her doll or pesters him.”
“How is Alexandra getting along with him?”
“She thinks she has a new brother,” Tia said, “who doesn’t have to go to school with her other brothers.” Tia stirred the soup. “The boys don’t know why you brought him here. They wonder what their friends will say when they find out a child such as this is living with them. I’ve told the boys we have to help where we can. Where is their filόtimo? They need to be reminded of what it means to be honourable.”
“If they knew the way the Roma live,” he said.
“The boy needs his mother,” Tia said. “What kind of monster sells his own son?”
“We don’t know he’s done that. We only suspect it. Maybe it’s a simple misunderstanding. We don’t know.”
“The child was found in the woman’s apartment. Distraught. You told me so yourself.” She turned and pointed the ladle at him. He watched as a few drops of soup dripped to the floor. She didn’t seem to notice. “What was he doing there if his father didn’t sell him? Thank God for the honest Greeks in the woman’s building. It is nice to know there are still good people left in this country.”
Yes, good Greeks, Christos thought. He saw again how the old woman had whispered and pointed to the Canadian woman’s apartment door. Her husband stood behind her, his hands over his ears. Neither looked him in the eye. “What are we to do with these foreigners?” the old woman had said. “They are taking over our country. Ruining it. And our leaders let them in so they can walk all over us. When will it stop?”
“What will happen to that poor child?" Tia asked now. “What kind of life could he have with the person who calls himself his father?”
“We’ll find his mother.”
“And if you don’t? Will he stay with us? I’m telling you now.” She pointed at him. “We have to think of our own family first.”
“Tia, I know this,” Christos said.
Her jaw tightened; her eyes blazed through him as they did whenever she was trying to make a point. “What if the mother is worse than the father? At least the father went looking for him. We know nothing about the mother.” Her voice rose; her shoulders hunched up, her posture stiffened.
“I don’t have answers right now.” Christos said. “I’m trying to understand what happened. I’m trying. That’s all.” He knew what she was thinking. You are so methodical, so slow to come to a decision. So unwilling to push things. Sometimes you have to decide things without thinking. You have to take action.
Book club guide
“The Brink of Freedom is an excellent, fast-paced, tense, and extremely timely novel by skilled Whistler writer Stella Leventoyannis Harvey, which deftly weaves the stories of migrant families risking their lives only to wind up in the squalid refugee camps…” >>
— Grant Lawrence Westender
“Over the past two years, the European Union has struggled to cope with an escalating migrant crisis. EU member countries received nearly 1.2 million asylum applications in 2015—more than double the previous year. On the front lines of this crisis,…” >>
— Emily McGiffin The Malahat Review
“Stella Leventoyannis Harvey's new novel The Brink of Freedom tells the story of desperate searches for new beginnings.
The ensemble cast is struggling to escape in so many ways — to shed some shameful aspect of the…” >>
— Rebecca Wood Barrett Pique News Magazine
“Stella Leventoyannis Harvey was born in Cairo, Egypt and moved to Calgary as a child with her family. In 2001, Harvey founded the Whistler Writers Group, which each year produces the Whistler Writers Festival under her direction. This is her…” >>
— The Vancouver Sun
“Harvey tackles refugee crisis in new novel
The Brink of Freedom to be launched at Whistler Writers Festival event on Oct. 17
When Whistler author Stella Harvey set out to write a novel about refugees in…” >>
— Alyssa Noel Whistler Question
Wednesday, October 14
Stella Leventoyannis Harvey was interviewed by Mountain FM about her new novel, The Brink of Freedom
(MP3 file, 6:05)