A Novel and a Short Story Collection for Your List

The National Herald

Scorpionfish by Natalie Bakopoulos. Photo: Tin House

Books can transport us to faraway places or illuminate the places closer to home that we take for granted and often help inspire us in our lives and travels. The following two thoughtful books, a novel and a collection of short stories, entertain and offer insights into the human condition.

Scorpionfish by Natalie Bakopoulos, published by Tin House, draws the reader in with strong characters and vivid descriptions of contemporary Athens in this captivating novel. Among Bakopoulos' characters are expatriates, exiles, immigrants, and refugees in this moving story that seems so personal and yet so universal.

According to the book's description, after the unexpected deaths of her parents, young academic Mira returns to her childhood home in Athens. On her first night back, she encounters a new neighbor, a longtime ship captain who has found himself, for the first time in years, no longer at sea. As one summer night tumbles into another, Mira and the Captain's voices drift across the balconies of their apartments, disclosing details and stories: of careers, of families, of love.

Bakopoulos is the author of The Green Shore (Simon & Schuster, 2012), and her work has appeared in Tin House, the Iowa Review, the New York Times, Granta, Ploughshares, and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. An assistant professor of creative writing at Wayne State University in Detroit and a faculty member of the summer program Writing Workshops in Greece, Bakopoulos lives in Ann Arbor, MI.

Big in Heaven: A Collection of Short Stories by Fr. Stephen Siniari, published by Ancient Faith Publishing, is a compelling read, highlighting an inner-city Orthodox Christian parish and a dynamic cast of characters.

The National Herald

Big in Heaven: A Collection of Short Stories by Fr. Stephen Siniari. Photo: Amazon

According to the book's Foreword by V. Rev. David R. Fox, “[these] stories begin to paint a new kind of Icon, that of a truly American Orthodox Christian, of regular people simply trying to be or tragically rejecting being regular human beings, the kind of people perhaps never even imagined by most American readers… The stories break the mold of what a religious or non-religious story ought to be. They are not moralistic, nor are they irreverent in their honest portrayal of the realities of life in the Church. Rather they are just good, honest stories, and in being this they are sacramental, conveying and holding together elements of life that are seemingly disparate.”

While the book is categorized as fiction, the poignant, at times funny, at times heartbreaking stories are clearly drawn from life and offer insights and perspective on the human condition and faith in an inner-city immigrant community. As noted in the book's description, “they are not for the faint of heart— but they are very much for all who want to embrace the truth more fully.”

Fr. Stephen N. Siniari is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) Diocese of the South. During almost forty years in ministry, Fr. Siniari served parishes in New England and the Philadelphia/South Jersey area while working full time for an international agency as a street outreach worker, serving homeless, at-risk, and trafficked teens. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Fr. Siniari currently lives on the Florida Gulf Coast with Margot, his wife of more than forty years.

The books mentioned above are available online.