The tale of an ordinary boy, lonely, sweet and introspective, driven toward a singularly dark coming of age.
Twelve-year-old Pietro dreams of deliverance. A brutal father, a neglecting mother and an oafish brother addicted to heavy metal and motocross enshadow Pietro’s poetic soul, aquiver with love for Gloria, the loveliest and richest girl in town. And what a town. Italian author Ammaniti (I’m Not Scared, 2003) peoples the nowheresville of Ischiano Scalo with wondrous citizenry—among them, Pierini, snarling “alpha hunting dog” of Michelangelo Buonarrotti junior high; Italo, the school’s diabetic, lame caretaker, besotted with a porkish prostitute; and redheaded Flora, a no-nonsense teacher fretting over her mother’s stomach cancer. Returning home to this hamlet is Graziano, a 40ish former-hunk troubadour who couldn’t quite make the big-time playing Santana and Gipsy Kings cover tunes. Exhausted by the wastrel life, he’s bringing back to mama his new bride, a sizzling, bitchy TV starlet. Won’t the hicks be dazzled! But when she dumps him, Graziano sniffs out Flora. The playboy’s and the lonely boy’s lives intersect: Coerced by Pierini, Pietro has trashed Flora’s classroom in an act of reluctant vandalism and, after elaborate plot twists, the teacher will end up drowned in a bath tub—Pietro to blame. How he pines still for Gloria, how Italo plots revenge for the schoolhouse crime, how Graziano suffers, all make for edge-of-the-seat reading. Yet Ammaniti is more than a red-hot storyteller: his delineation of Pietro’s agonized adolescence and Graziano’s ridiculous, moving midlife crisis, his cinematic descriptions of village atmosphere and custom, the way he portrays Italy’s fabled old loveliness with its desperate embrace of Americanized pop culture, qualify him as an astute psychologist and sharp social critic.
Teems with incident, wit and pathos.