A father finds his life transformed when his son is born with cerebral palsy, as illuminated through this masterfully written memoir.
The structuring of this book, by Venice-based Brazilian author Mainardi, might initially seem overly precious or gimmicky. Each very short section (a paragraph or two, a photo, a drawing) is numbered, with each representing a step taken by the author’s son, Tito, before he inevitably falls. The 424 steps here represent a monumental achievement, for, as the author notes, the “sixteen steps Tito took on 28 September 2005 became, some months later, twenty-seven steps. Some months later, the seven steps became forty-four steps….” Ultimately, the structuring provides a sturdy frame that allows Mainardi to avoid sentimentality or wallowing in grief (or rage at the Venetian hospital that bungled the birth), while showing how the unconditional love the parents have for their son has transformed the author’s world. He connects everything to Tito’s destiny—from the architecture that drew him to the hospital to “Hitler’s ‘euthanasia’ program [that] offered ‘mercy killings’ to those whose lives were ‘worthless’ or ‘not worth living’ ” to Neil Young’s experience with two sons born with cerebral palsy and the music that resulted in such unlikely juxtapositions as, “No one falls better than James Joyce. Apart from Lou Costello.” As the author of four published novels and a column in the Brazilian magazine Veja, Mainardi now thinks of himself: “I am Tito’s father. I exist only because Tito exists.” Tito emerges as collaborator in the book—not as a cause or a type or a symbol but as a happy, well-adjusted, well-loved individual with a life well worth living.
A singularly compelling memoir.