In the hardscrabble villages of northern Greece, strength is the only measure of a girl’s beauty. But Maria Christina is delicate, nearsighted, unmarried at 17 – already a spinster, in a town with few choices– and hopeless. She’s overshadowed by Matoula, the nimble, radiant older sister whom she loves but envies. Worse still, she smolders with shameful desire for handsome, worldly Yiannis, Matoula’s husband, a doctor from sophisticated Athens.
It’s the bitter winter of 1940, war just over the horizon, the Axis Powers massing to invade. All the able-bodied men have gone to defend the border. The women must supply their food and clothing, their bandages and bullets – on foot over mountain trails, by starlight, through deep snow. But only those deemed strong may help. Not Maria Christina. For her that’s just another humiliation.
Defiantly, she joins Matoula on a supply run. And then her worst nightmare comes true: it is strong, deserving Matoula who dies. Yiannis is left a widower, torn between commitment to the resistance, where his skills are desperately needed, and responsibility for Zoitsa, the young daughter Matsoula bore him.
War rages on – against the Italians, then the Germans, and then heartbreaking civil strife among the Greeks themselves. Conflict burns within Maria Christina and Yiannis, too. They are engulfed by passion, separated by duty to country, bonded by common loss and devoured by Maria Christina’s guilt at surviving her more beautiful, capable sister.
A vivid epic of calamity and longing, of modernity vanquishing tradition, Matoula’s Echo makes just one fragile promise of redemption in the form of Maria Christina’s new awakening.