Odyssey Magazine Review

With Uncertain Journey, James Rouman delves deeper into the literature of the immigrant experience, which he first explored from the Greek American perspective in his debut novel Underwater Dreams. The ethnic background of his characters is enriched with the introduction of an Albanian man, Rejep Etaj, who dreams of a new life just as the Greek immigrants to North America once did. Rejep strikes a friendship with Eudoxia Athanasiou, a Greek American woman, and that relationship eventually blossoms into love.

Juxtaposing Rejep’s flight from Albania’s poverty to the relative riches of Greece against a similar flight, albeit from Greece to the U.S., by Eudoxia’s family decades earlier, Rouman highlights Greece’s transition from a country of immigrants to a host country-and through her mother’s prejudice against Rejep, Greek society’s bias against foreign migrants. The parallels are subtle, but exist, between the treatment of earlier generations of Greek immigrants to the U.S. and the view of the assimilated, hyphenated Americans, like Eudoxia’s family or the Hungarian building manager with whom Rejep finds work, and newer generations of foreign migrants.

With Uncertain Journey, Rouman has created more than an absorbing story for he sketches the complex web of personal and social relations in a multicultural society that can no longer absorb immigrants and pushes them towards exclusion rather than inclusion. The novel puts a face on an anonymous group-illegal or undocumented migrants live in the shadows of our societies, visible but ghostlike. Rouman tells his tale with a characteristic clarity of prose and an engaging style that draws you into his characters’ lives, even those with which you don’t sympathize.

Bryan Kontos, Odyssey Magazine