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THREE LIGHT-YEARS by Andrea Canobbio


by Andrea Canobbio ; translated by Anne Milano Appel

Pub Date: July 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-374-27890-8
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Love, time and regret underpin this complicated story of love between two emotionally cautious doctors in modern-day Italy.

This ethereal tale is only the second of Canobbio's (The Natural Disorder of Things, 2006, etc.) eight novels to reach the U.S. It’s a rich story that explores the emotional insecurities of a variety of characters; it’s also linguistically complex and decidedly nonlinear. The novel is sometimes told from the perspective of a man looking back on the midlife crisis of his father, a doctor named Claudio Viberti who worked in a busy metropolitan hospital. More often, the tale is told by an omniscient narrator, though this could be the son imagining what transpired. The lonely doctor becomes infatuated with Cecilia, an emergency room doctor with two children who is vigilant about her emotions. They “date” by having lunch every day, but Cecilia cannot commit, so Viberti becomes increasingly frantic. “Did I race over here because I wanted to see her, and I couldn’t stand not seeing her, and I’m in love with her, or because I didn’t want to say no, and I was afraid I would regret it, and I’m afraid of being alone forever, and for some time a ridiculous idea has been stuck in my head, that it’s too late, that this is my last chance?” he asks himself. The relationship gets more complicated when Viberti has a physical encounter with a woman named Silvia, who happens to be Cecilia’s sister. The intricacies of the story are slowly revealed as we see first Viberti's perspective on a given situation, then Cecilia's and then Silvia's, punctuated by an occasional aside from Viberti's son. It might sound soap operatic, but Canobbio has an otherworldly cadence that carries the story aloft even when the dizzying shifts in point of view threaten to disorient readers.

An affecting depiction of the urgency of love and the inherent madness that so often comes with it.