Sunday, July 12, 2015

"Let Me Explain You"

Annie Liontas' debut novel, Let Me Explain You, was selected by the ABA as an Indies Introduce Debut and Indies Next. She is the co-editor of the anthology A Manner of Being: Writers on their Mentors and the recipient of a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

Liontas applied the Page 69 Test to Let Me Explain You and reported the following:
From page 69:
“They won’t be able to help themselves,” Stavroula offered, a little breathless. “We’ll sell hundreds.”

Like that time they—she and July—bungled the produce order and got six times the amount of blackberries they should have. What had happened was, she posted a note for blackberries. One of the other cooks posted a note for blackberries. Mr. Asbury posted a note for blackberries. July posted a note for blackberries. Stavroula approved the order for blackberries when she was “multitasking.” Inexplicably, the producer left them two more crates on top of that. By the time they realized, a return was out of the question. They froze some, they unloaded some to other restaurants, they made ice cream and pie, they delegated to glazes and marinades, they served a complimentary compote to guests, they still had a thousand blackberries left, it seemed.

The look July was giving her now didn’t match the delicacy that was July’s July. Rather, it was like the last day of the berries, when she and July surveyed the damage, the hundreds of blackberries overripened into saccharine mud, the dull and damaged skin, the loose, erupting drupelets. The soft, fine-haired mold that spread like a diseased cloth.

That day, it was not exactly disgust that July expressed when she said, “Is it too late for sorbet?” but an exhausted humor that implicated them both. Instead of throwing berries at each other or pushing one another into the sliding, skating fluids of the fruit, as Stavroula fantasized, they used a mop. They took turns wiping and rinsing, even though they could have had one of the boys take care of it. They talked about their fathers.

“Try it,” Stavroula said. She held out a fork. “You don’t like it, I’ll take it off.”
With her fingers, July took a berry with some onion.

“It’s good, right? Take another.”

July slid the menu across the counter. “Change it, Stevie, the whole thing.” She walked off in the white wedges.

Because the entire kitchen was already part of this, and because Stavroula knew it would expose her as much as she had exposed July, Stavroula called after her, “Next week we add Sorbet in Hot July.” It gave the staff permission to laugh.
One thing is clear: if page 1 is the lightning, page 69 is definitely the thunder.

Page 69 showcases the aftermath of what Stavros Stavros Mavrakis, patriarch, sets into motion on page 1 when he sends a scathing email to his daughters and ex-wife. In the letter he urges his eldest daughter Stavroula to grow out her hair—and this is all the push she needs to confess to her boss’ daughter that she’s in love with her. Stavroula, who is a chef, does this by creating a menu entirely inspired by July, whom she’s pined after for years. She attempts to woo her beloved through food (something that would definitely work on me) and begins by serving July the unique dish of onion, blackberries and feta known as July’s July. You can see from the excerpt, though, that, July is not impressed …at least, not yet.
Visit Annie Liontas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue