You can’t take Olympus out of Greece…or can you? Welcome to Olympus, Texas, where the community is small, but full of more family drama than any reality TV show set. Peter Briscoe - local real estate magnate and proud father of 5 (or more?) - has his problems and all of them begin and end with his family. His wife, June, can barely stand to look at him after many years of dealing with his infidelity. His son, March, is back after year’s away because he slept with his brother Hap’s wife, Vera. His twins - Artie and Arlo - are lost in the affairs of the heart because Artie loves a man she knows her twin brother won’t like. So much drama that all stems from the patriarch and comes to a head when an ”accident” brings all family angers to the surface.
Stacey Swann’s debut novel creates detailed character portraits within a rich family drama that leaps off the page. I enjoyed how she split up the chapters into pieces titled “The Origin of March’s Rage” or “The Origin of Vera’s Broken Heart.” Not only did you get to spend some time digging into how each character felt, but you also got the origin of why they were angry in the first place. I could truly feel their hurt, their frustration and their pain so deeply. It was as much a drama as it was a lyrical reading experience.
The best part for me was the hints of Greek myths laced throughout the novel. From the names of March’s dogs, Romulus and Remus to to the rephrasing of the characters names from their Greek versions to the town’s name itself, it was clever and it made me look into my Greek mythology book from high school as a reference guide.
My favorite storyline was the March/Hap/Vera triangle. After reading Lovely War in 2020, I gained a better understanding of this mythological story where Ares - god of war - falls in love with his brother Hephaestus’s - god of forgery and fire - wife, Aphrodite - goddess of love. However, I felt like this retelling went even deeper than Lovely War. You feel the tension between March and Hap so vividly. You sense the complicated strings of Vera’s heart going every which way as she speaks to each man. It’s the origin story of the love triangle, and its so messy and enticing.
Olympus, Texas. A debut novel of intricate and complex relationships, mythology brought to modern life, and a story you can get lost in physically and on audio. If you end up loving this and want more mythology retellings…check out this list of titles below.
Lovely War - Julie Berry (Retelling of Ares/Hephaestus/Aphrodite love triangle)
The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller (Retelling of the Iliad)
The Percy Jackson Series - Rick Riordan (Tons of myths rapped up into a YA series)
’Til We Have Faces - C.S. Lewis (Retelling of Cupid and Psyche)
Neon gods - Katee Robert (Retelling of the story of Hades and Persephone and its a spicy series!)
Adrinae - Jennifer Saint (Retelling of the story of Adrinae)