A young boy grows into manhood under the weight of his Italian-American family’s ambition and repressed sexuality: an emotionally piercing, quietly beautiful third novel by the author of The Country of Marriage (not reviewed).
In 1961, when Luca Carcera is 11, his father takes him to see the site of their future home on “the Hill,” a new upscale suburb of Boston. For Luca’s social-climbing Uncle John, the Hill represents paradise, the family’s successful escape from the working class. But for Luca, the move will mark the shattering of his innocence. Luca’s father, Lou, is not terribly interested in outward appearances, which becomes clear when he leaves his wife and son for crude, red-faced Bob Painter, who works with the grounds crew at the plant where Lou is an accountant. At first Luca doesn’t understand where his father’s gone. Lou has simply disappeared with no explanation or discussion: that’s how this family deals with painful and momentous events. Throughout the story the pattern is repeated: Luca’s mother suddenly refuses her suitor’s marriage proposal; Uncle John’s son, George, comes back from Vietnam a damaged man. Luca is a sensitive narrator and observer of social events, a quiet boy who hides in the shadows, the quintessential outsider. He's haunted by his father’s sexuality and conflicted as to his own orientation: “It was like somewhere along the line I misplaced my own sexuality, and anyone could come along and define it for me. You, him, whoever.” With no one to talk to, Luca sleep-walks through the years until finally, as a grown man with his 12-year marriage crumbling, he arranges a meeting between his parents and connects with them in a way that allows him to surmount his fears and become a participant in his own life.
A gracefully written literary novel that perceptively examines one family’s struggles with the desire for social, sexual, and economic success.