After a tragedy, a quirky collection of adults and children fashions a new kind of family connected by commonplace philosophy, community, and the possibility of better.
Hairdresser and local beauty Serena is a single parent, mother to golden-boy Luca and albino daughter Luna. Forty-year-old Sandro is a sad sack who still lives with his mother, hangs out with two similarly hopeless friends, and works as a substitute teacher. And Zot, a Russian orphan boy from Chernobyl, lodges in the chaotic home of his grumpy, rifle-toting stepgrandfather. Love, guilt, need, heartbreak, happenstance, and the search for meaning connect this diverse group in Italian writer Genovesi’s (Live Bait, 2014, etc.) latest, a wacky, sprawling tale of contemporary Italy phrased in casual, everyday language. While writing from several perspectives, principally those of Serena, Luna, and Sandro, Genovesi is happy to take the reader on narrative excursions, into the life of an overprivileged Russian toy poodle, for example, or the flirtations of a woman with a large nose at her bachelorette party. But beneath the boundless flow of colorful anecdote, character portrait, and discursive dialogue in and around the Tuscan town of Forte dei Marmi, there’s a story about the lonely daydreams of outsiders. Luna’s fantasies about the sea and its gifts of flotsam feed her efforts to understand Luca’s existence and her own. Serena is battling depression brought on by loss. And Sandro is trying to address his terminal ineffectualness. Pain and alienation are the book’s foundation, but its superstructure is a sentimental weave of modern life punctuated by Genovesi’s sense of humor and fondness for off-the-cuff aphorisms: “If the future sucks so much, then shit, we’re better off diving into all the present we can find.”
Winner of the 2015 Strega Prize for Young Authors, this immense, good-natured, self-indulgent tale offers a cumulative celebration of life in shaggy dog form.