REVIEW by Willard Manus
lovers of Greek island life.
SOMEWHERE ELSE tells the heart-warming story of a Canadian couple overcoming
all kinds of obstacles to make a new life for themselves on the north-eastern-Aegean
island of Ikaria. Written by Alex Morton, the book paints an in-depth
portrait of Ikaria, a ripe, little island, with beehives in the
hills and wild goats in the mountains. In ancient times, there was no
sign of villages or even houses if you were looking from a boat, but there
were people, and wine, and olives. Today, the islanders are famous
for their health and longevity.
Named after Ikarus, the fabled Greek character who took a nosedive when
his wax wings melted, Ikaria has always had a proud, independent history.
In 1912, for example, the island severed its ties with the Ottoman empire
and became a nation of its own. Eventually, circumstances forced
Ikaria to become part of Greece, Morton writes. But while
Ikarians consider themselves Greek, they still regard themselves as Ikarian
first and view other Greeks as Xeni, foreigners.
his wife Mina had spent time on the island back in the sixties, but that
was mainly to visit her relatives. Much as they loved Ikaria, settling
there permanently was not in their plans. This changed when the brokerage
house handling their finances get caught up in the 2008 Wall Street debacle
and nearly went broke. On top of that, Mina was diagnosed with breast
cancer and the house they were renting was sold.
With the world crumbling around them, they decided to pack up and start
afresh on Ikaria, if only because Mina owned a house there. It was
pretty rough, but at least it was our own pile of rubble and there wouldnt
be any rent. There was a lot of land with it as well, with plenty of space
to grow food and lots of olive trees. But fifty years of neglect had left
the land covered in such a dense tangle of heavy thorns and thick bushes
that most of it was inaccessible, Morton relates.
Most of SOMEWHERE ELSE deals with the Mortons struggle to build
a road, repair the house, clear the land, put in water and electricity.
They also had to cope with Greek bureaucracy, IKEA, an infestation of
scorpions and ants, plus the threat of fire and earthquakes. Fortunately,
Alex came from tough stock with at least a rudimentary knowledge of farming,
construction and plumbing. The Mortons were also lucky enough to have
relatives and friends who were generous with help and advice.
Best of all was Greek island life, which offered a warm, clear-blue sea,
savory fresh food, music pulsing in the tavernas and bars. Although they
lived without TV or computers, they filled their free time with picnics,
weddings and baptisms, long, bracing walks in the hills, olive-picking,
laughter and reading. Best of all, Minas health improved; Ikaria
had worked its therapeutic magic on her.
that, the Canadian government finally took action on behalf of devastated
bank shareholders like the Mortons. Their funds were returned to them-plus
Its a welcome ending to a tempest-tossed story.