An affecting look at the relationship between a father and his youngest daughter—in a first novel that has mystery and charm but that, at moments, seems curiously removed from its own action: it's like reading a story about a story. Sixty-year-old Guido Forte is an attractive and highly successful businessman in Rome. On the job, he is decisive and skillful at figuring out what's going on behind the scenes in all of the office politics. At home, however, things are not as easy to decipher and certainly not as easy to manage. Federica, the Fortes' 19-year-old daughter has become thin and withdrawn. Not responding to her family's efforts to help her, she eventually stops speaking entirely. Doctors diagnose ``aphasia,'' but no one has any idea what trauma has led Federica into this state. The secret seems to lie in the missing pages, torn from the girl's diary. Finally, despairing, not knowing what else to do, Forte takes his daughter away, just the two of them, to their summer house in Ischia. There, following another crisis, Federica begins to speak again and Forte is finally able to start piecing together the mystery that led to her muteness. The Ischia scenes are riveting in their intensity, but when the narrative suddenly leaps ahead three years, the story's end is weakened. The curtain is closing, but we've never really seen the final act—it's taken place offstage, somewhere. Uneven drama, but rich in the kind of family insights that play equally well in Peoria or Padua.
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