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Just Myrto

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Just Myrto Cover, Luminis Books 2014

 
Just Myrto by Laurie Gray
Young Adult Historical Fiction/High School
 

2015 Moonbeam Silver Medal Winner
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Marrying Socrates launches Myrto, granddaughter of Aristides the Just, on a journey through Ancient Greek metaphysics to discover the wonder of being Just Myrto.
  
"I was born into a world where life itself depends upon man's
pleasure and woman's pain.  I am doubly cursed to be both mortal and
female."  When Myrto's father dies leaving no dowry for her to
marry, Myrto wonders whether her brother will find her a husband or
sell her into slavery.  In Ancient Greece it is better to have a kind
master than a cruel husband.  At eighteen, Myrto finds a kind husband in
Socrates.  Will Myrto also find herself and choose her own destiny through her relationship with Socrates?

What people are saying:

  

"Laurie Gray crafts a compelling and appealing narrator who shows that despite societal constraints, an individual can create her own life. Complete with delightful renderings of Socratic dialogue and thoughtful looks into the customs and knowledge of the time, Just Myrto is a lively story of some of the most important people of the Classical period of ancient Greece. The depth of Gray’s research shows in the accuracy of the details of daily life, yet doesn’t interfere with the story or get in the way of the readers’ interest in the characters.

~ Tracy Barrett, award-winning author of King of Ithaka and Dark of the Moon. She is former professor at Vanderbilt University.

       

"In this very original novel, Laurie Gray gives us a cast of characters to love, a historical setting to inhabit, and just enough philosophy to whet our appetites for more. A page-turning narrative woven with deep and substantial conversations, Just Myrto lingers in the mind long after the book is closed. I especially love the delicacy with which Laurie Gray imagines several central scenes, giving love and sex and death their importance in the story, while allowing Myrto a certain modesty in recounting her feelings about them. A beautiful story, beautifully told."

~Helen Frost, author of The Braid, Crossing Stones, and Salt.

 

The character of Myrto, as the second wife of Socrates, will surely imprint for good all those who discover her in this delightful book. As a young girl without a dowry, Myrto could easily have fallen between the cracks of ancient Greek society. Instead, when Socrates volunteers to take her as a second wife, Myrto undergoes an initiation, not just into wife- and mother-hood, but also into the life of an independent thinker. She becomes a woman of great spiritual power, especially after the death of her husband when she chooses how to live without her beloved guide and husband.

What I loved most about this book is how the author resists the temptation of the romantic master narrative. Myrto develops great strength as she learns to think for herself. In fact, I've never seen a better depiction of growth in a young woman -- from vulnerability and anxiety to confidence and courage.

Socrates and Plato, two of the other chief characters are finely drawn also. Indeed, Socrates is the catalyst for the amazing growth of his young wife. His refusal to tell her what to do and to think and his probing questions have a transformative effect over time. She even finds a way to understand the famously difficult Xanthippe, Socrates' first wife.

Along the way the reader picks up many facts of Greek life and history, but the research doesn't show on the surface. It's embedded and can be discovered just the way Socrates himself would have approved. Without discovery learning is mere memorization. With it, learning lives in the place of the gods, the spirit.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in ancient Greek culture and in a riveting story of female empowerment.

 

~ Shirley Hershey Showalter , author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. She was president of Goshen College and Vice-President-Programs of the Fetzer Institute.


Teens—and adults—interested in ancient Greece from a social and intellectual perspective will find this novel richly rewarding, as will fans of biography and readers who appreciate a “human face” for famous names.  In addition, JUST MYRTO offers intriguing glimpses of women’s lives in ancient Greece, a notoriously male-centered society; it should find a place in feminist literature.  Laurie Gray has gracefully met several major challenges in writing this unusual book, and her readers will thank her for a horizon-broadening experience. 

~ Elsa Marston, author of The Compassionate Warrior and Santa Claus in Baghdad

 

"An unusual and quiet historical novel. The majority of this book is an examination of Socratic philosophy, resulting in a story with incredible intellectual growth on the part of the protagonist." —Kirkus Reviews

“Readers will appreciate Myrto’s growth from faint of heart to bold, impassioned woman. Most likely, the audience for this novel will be those studying ancient Greece and the Socratic method.”

—Teri S. Lesesne, Voya

"Laurie Gray does an admirable job of weaving some of the philosophical content of Plato’s dialogues into a compelling story that will appeal to adolescent readers and especially adolescent girls."

Naomi Reshotko, Professor of Philosophy, University of Denver, author of Socratic Virtue (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

 

 

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