Mattioli’s novel is a sweet, road-trip tale about the fraught but ultimately tender relationship between siblings.
On the day Cosmo Greco loses his admittedly miserable office job, his free-spirited sister, Silvia, shows up with a plan to drive across the country to Portland, Oregon, where she has dreams of starting a new life. Though reluctant at first, Cosmo begins to warm to the idea when he realizes that his parents, his apartment and his employment status are weighing him down. Once on the road, Silvia and Cosmo bicker, bond and discover that their lives are only as limited as the stories they tell themselves about their family and circumstances. The characters the two siblings meet along the way—whether delightfully crazy or attractive or lost—serve as foils for a kind of personal growth particular to a road-trip scenario, and the landscape of the vast space between the East and West coasts acts as a catalyst for emotional and spiritual change. Author Mattioli (Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, 2012) writes in an assured voice that carries the story through its potentially sentimental passages, and while some readers may begin to feel the drag of such a long journey, by the end, they may be surprised to find that they, too, have undergone an emotional odyssey. The scenes of Cosmo and his sister with their mother and father (who have long been divorced) are particularly poignant and well-drawn. For example, Cosmo’s father, a violent man in his youth, has deteriorated into a pathetic character who still produces conflicted feelings in his children, which Mattioli renders mostly through image: “The floor looked warped from moisture, as it was protruding in spots. The wood on the cabinets was chipped and worn. The door of the closet looked as if it could fall from its hinges at any second. One or more of the drawers didn’t close straight, but tilted, revealing an opening.” The dialogue is also, for the most part, believably rendered, which is vital for a story that mostly unfolds in a car.
A light yet satisfying story of a transformative road trip.