Two traumatized loners who meet as teens spend years grappling with a powerful connection that terrifies them both.
It’s love, or something like it, for 15-year-old Alice Della Rocca when she first lays eyes on Mattia Balossino in the halls of her school. She recognizes a kindred spirit in the awkward, intelligent boy, who sports a bandage on his hand, the result of a shocking self-harming episode. Anorexic, with a bad leg from a childhood ski accident, Alice insinuates herself into Mattia’s life in spite of the wall he has put up around himself, and the two settle into an odd but lasting friendship. Preferring not to be touched and feeling most at home in his math studies, Mattia comes to see both himself and Alice as “twin prime” numbers—similar, but always separated. Eventually, after graduating from college, he reveals to Alice the awful secret behind his cutting habit. At the age of seven he left his retarded twin sister Michela in a local park to attend a birthday party, and she was never seen again. His confession brings the two closer, but soon after Mattia takes a job at a university overseas, in part to escape his feelings for Alice. Once there he flourishes in his career while carefully avoiding personal entanglements. Alice in turn settles down with an outgoing doctor she believes can give her a normal life. But the two never forget each other, and when Alice’s life takes a difficult turn she summons Mattia back to Italy. He comes, knowing full well that surrendering to his attraction to her holds equal parts pain and pleasure. A bestseller in Europe, winner of the Premio Strega in the author’s native Italy, this compelling debut shows a remarkable sensitivity and maturity in the depiction of its damaged soulmates.
Fragile, unconventional love story by a talent to watch.